COOS BAY — As the football season narrows toward the state championship game in a little more than two weeks, the No. 4 Marshfield Pirates are trying to stay loose and not let the moment become too much.
With a quarterfinal game against the No. 5 Mazama Vikings on Friday, the Pirates’ last at Pete Susick Stadium this season, not looking ahead is an important part of this week’s preparation.
“We’re trying to let the nerves off a bit and keeping everybody up,” Cory Stover said. “You know, mess around a little bit but keep it serious when we’re down on the field running through plays and stuff. It’s kind of a happy medium.”
This Marshfield group isn’t unfamiliar with deep playoff runs, as last season’s runner-up finish proves.
But some Pirates wondered if the moment became too big for the Pirates last fall. Marshfield struggled in the state championship contest against Cottage Grove, and the players remember the feeling leading up to and after that game.
The change isn’t anything scheme-wise or personnel-wise. It’s an emotional adjustment.
“We try to tell people that if you overthink, if you really want to catch the ball, you probably won’t catch the ball,” Stover said. “If you just go out and do your thing and do what we do every game, I think we’ll be okay.”
Marshfield knew after last week that the quarterfinal would be a challenge.
A year ago Marshfield had to use a comeback to beat La Grande and earn a spot in the semifinals.
This season, Marshfield gets a Mazama team that hasn’t lost to a school in Oregon this year, its only defeat in eight tries a 28-7 loss to Del Norte of California.
Mazama runs an old-fashioned wishbone offense that intends to use long, plodding drives to keep the ball out of the opponent’s hands.
“We gotta play downhill, stop the dive, eliminate the quarterback and not let them chunk their way down the field and eat out the clock,” Pirates coach John Lemmons said. “And offensively we need to score when we have the ball.”
The Vikings are potent. In its eight games, Mazama has averaged 33.25 points per game with a high of 61.
Marshfield's rushing defense has swallowed most offenses this season.
“If we can stop their inside run — they run a lot of inside dive, and an outside dive and power,” Aiden Adams said. “If we can stop their run, then they can’t do anything. We have really good DBs that are working their butts off this week. And they’re constantly getting better. And our D-line is constantly getting better. It’s really exciting to see how we can stop the run.”
Offensively, Marshfield has been able to score quickly all season with either big plays or touchdowns in sudden change situations after turnovers deep in their opponents’ end.
Scoring quickly will be important for Marshfield if it can’t effectively slow the Mazama offense. The Pirates might simply not have many opportunities to score if Mazama successfully holds the ball for six, seven, eight minutes at a time, even if the Vikings don’t score.
Marshfield has been working on more downfield passing plays this week, reverting back there after focusing on short passes to face North Marion’s blitz-happy defense.
“We got a bunch of different plays off of plays that we run,” Stover said. “Trying to do those and fake ‘em out a little bit with those, and we’re bringing some older things too. So that should be good.”
Marshfield and Mazama kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. Reserved seats are $10 and general admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students, People can buy tickets in advance at Pirate Hall.