NORTH BEND — New teams make up North Bend’s football schedule, new teams fill out its league and new teams stand in the way between the Bulldogs and the ultimate goal.
But nothing is different. North Bend's practice is still broken down into a number of smaller segments, its time ticking away on the scoreboard and its horn signaling the end of one period and the start of another, the players and coaches scurrying around the Vic Adams Field turf for the next few minutes of repetitions.
“I put a lot of thought into it, and that’s gotta be the way that we tackle it,” Bulldogs coach Gary Prince said. “I feel like if I don’t tackle it that way, the kids will go after it with a different perspective as well.”
Prince took the move in stride and, by extension, his players have as well. The question about playing new schools is ultimately unimportant, ultimately distracting from the mission.
That mentality talks about nameless, faceless opponents. You play against who’s in front of you, colors and enrollment numbers and measurables not important.
So is the attitude with North Eugene looming Friday, and the rest of the Bulldogs’ Class 5A Special District 2 schedule as well. North Bend is sticking with the things that secured its first blue trophy in school history just a few short years ago.
“It’s still 11 guys on the field,” two-way end Hunter Bierce said. “It’s 11 against 11 no matter what. It’s two teams pitted up against each other no matter what.”
It was an emotionally draining Friday night last week as North Bend squeaked past rival Marshfield.
Bierce said his team was battered and bruised and tired following the 23-21 win, but recharged over the weekend, knowing what is coming.
“By the time Monday came around, we got back to practice and everyone was ready to go and ready to start the next week and push forward,” he said.
It won’t get easier.
Outside of one long run in the first half, North Bend’s running game struggled to find room against a stout Marshfield front, and the fronts North Bend faces for the remainder figure to be pretty stout.
Prince hopes it’s a matter of timing, getting the meshes down in North Bend’s option-like scheme.
“We need a better mesh between our backs, our quarterbacks, our offensive line,” Prince said. “
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing North Bend is the North Eugene offense. It’s coming off a 51-50 loss to Springfield, a future North Bend opponent, and uses a lot of familiar principles. The Highlanders have an athletic quarterback who can throw, a bruising running back behind, and some quick receivers on the outside.
A staple of the Highlander offense is the fly sweep, something the Bulldogs saw a lot last week and struggled to defend.
“We struggled in jamboree against the fly sweep,” Prince said. “We struggled against Marshfield with the fly sweep. We’re gonna get to work on it some more. And that’s kind of a good thing for us. We need those reps.”
Friday's game is not a league game, since North Eugene, and South Eugene, which North Bend faces next week, are in the district's other division. The Bulldogs don't open league play until Sept. 21, when they visit Thurston.