by Randy Parks
Burns High School (BHS) athletes have put away the cleats, volleyballs and running shoes and have moved onto the gym floor and wrestling mat. Here’s a look at the teams that will compete this winter:
BHS girls basketball
Hilander fans can expect to see something new from this year’s girls basketball team.
“What we’re going to run will be different than what we’ve had in this program,” first-year head coach Brandon McMullen said. “We’ve got a different group of kids, and I have a different coaching style.”
Before taking over as the girls head coach this year, McMullen coached the boys freshmen/sophomore team from 2006-2009, and served as the girls JV coach for the past three years.
“I was fortunate to serve under some good coaches, and I’ve tried to take the best from them, and put it into my coaching,” he said.
“We’re going to play up-tempo this year, and into the foreseeable future,” McMullen said. He added that it could be a young team, as there are some freshmen and sophomores that will have opportunities to get varsity time.
Players with varsity experience returning include: seniors Kylee Fisher, Jordon Long and Madison Winn; juniors Madison Woodworth and Hailey Sanders; and sophomore Madison Carson. McMullen said they were still evaluating all the players to determine who would land a spot on the varsity squad.
“The most important thing is to have fun, but if you have the ability to change the game in your favor because you work harder and stay healthy, that’s what we’re going to do,” McMullen said. “Being young, and going to a new system, we’ll make some mistakes. I would be highly surprised if we’re close to where we want to be by the first game, but there should be a transformation by the time we start league play.”
McMullen said Vale and Nyssa are expected to battle for the top spot in the Eastern Oregon League (EOL), but don’t count the Hilanders out for the playoffs.
He stated Vale graduated the majority of starters from last year’s squad, but bring back lots of talent.
“The Bates girl is a true offensive threat,” McMullen said. “She has size, speed and is dedicated to the program. They also have the Hawkins girls back, and there’s talent there.”
As for Nyssa, McMullen said they have their starting core coming back, but they also have a new head coach.
“How they adjust to a new coaching style is something you have to take into account,” McMullen said.
So how do the Hilanders stack up against the two favorites? “We want to run, and Vale can play that way,” McMullen said. “The question is, in a tight game, can we stay focused? If we stick to where we want to go, we’ll be successful.”
For the first time this year, the EOL will have a playoff system to determine the two teams that will go on to state. Following the league season, the third-place team will play at the second-place team’s home site. The winner of that game will then play at the league champion’s site to determine the No. 1 and 2 seeds.
“The league champion will be going to state, but maybe not as the No. 1 seed,” McMullen said. “And the second-place team has no guarantee of going to state at all. I think that’s where the pressure is going to be.”
Joining McMullen on the coaching staff are JV coach Kevin Feist, frosh/soph coach Brittainy Houck and varsity volunteer assistant Bruce Voges.
The Hilanders tip off their season Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Crook County. On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-7, they will take part in the La Pine Tournament.
BHS boys basketball
With just one senior and two juniors in the rotation this year, head coach Ted Aubin describes his team as, “Young and inexperienced.”
The rest of the rotation will be filled by some combination of the nine sophomores on the team. “We have talent in the program, we’ve just got to get from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’ in a hurry to compete for the league title or a state tournament spot,” Aubin said.
The Hilanders return last year’s EOL Player of the Year, junior Austin Feist, as well as senior post Chase Patterson.
“We graduated six players that accounted for about 67 percent of our points, so we’ll have to make that up somewhere,” Aubin said.
Aubin stated that the team has the potential to compete in every game, but a lot depends on “how mentally and physically tough we are, how hard we play, and how unselfish we play.”
Aubin feels comfortable with his team’s ability to shoot the ball, and would like to see them recapture the intensity they played with over the summer. “There’s a little bit of an edge to us, and I like that,” he said. “We’ve got 17 games to get ready for league play, and we’ll see what happens.”
Looking at the EOL this year, Aubin noted that Nyssa will be a tough team. They return a number of good athletes, have size, and Danny Pratt, who coached the Bulldogs’ girls varsity for a number of years, has taken over the boys program.
He expects Riverside to also be in the running. “Their coach, Claire Costello, always finds a way to be competitive,” Aubin said.
Having an EOL playoff to determine the state playoff spots has both good and bad aspects Aubin said. Aubin pointed out that without the playoff, as in past years, his team had a bit of a layoff. “It doesn’t do us any good to sit around at the end of the season, while the other teams are still playing,” he said.
But one of the drawbacks is how those games can affect the OSAA RPI rating that is used to determine the playoff rankings. “Every game is a playoff game for us,” he said. “We’ve just got to win as many games as possible to improve our RPI. If we get wins over teams like Grant Union and Irrigon, that’ll help.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we come together as a team. We’ll push them early to get to where we want to be,” Aubin said. “If we win league this year, it’ll be the best coaching job I’ve ever done.”
The coaching staff is rounded out by JV coach Jed Patterson and volunteer coach Mick Miller.
Burns begins the season on Wednesday, Dec. 4, when they host Crook County, and then they play in the La Pine Tournament Dec. 6-7.
After one year of “retirement,” Mark Hofman has returned matside to lead the Hilander wrestling team.
Hofman said there are about a dozen kids on the team this year, in varying weight classes. “We’ve got some good wrestlers, some young ones, but we don’t match up well in weight classes for wrestling partners,” Hofman said.
With the youth and inexperience, Hofman has had to use a different approach to the season. “We’re going over the moves, and I’m not used to having to do that,” he said. “We’re taking time to show the basics — like halves, positioning, riding, breaking people down and, of course, the cradle. Usually this time of year, we’re pushing them hard in conditioning right off the bat.”
Although the number of wrestlers seems low this year, Hofman expects the numbers to rise in the next couple of years. “We’re cycling through some small classes, but we’ll get more in,” he said. “The USA wrestling numbers are big again, and we should have more kids.”
Hofman stated he is looking for constant improvement from his team this year, and maybe a state champion or two by the end of the season.
The Hilander squad includes Seth Nonnenmacher, a returning state champion, Thomas Cain, Peter Cain, Zach Nelsen, Jack Van Tassel, Jaden Simpson, Jacob Steinbeck, James Obradovich, Austin Ryder, Dallon Higgins, Hunter Freitag, Jonathan Schmeck and Andrew Beck.
Hofman is assisted by Dally Swindlehurst and Devin Johnson, as well as several volunteer coaches.
The Hilanders open the season at home Friday, Dec. 6, hosting the Woodfin/Robinson Duals. Schools attending the tournament are Crane, Vale, Lakeview and Baker.