Redmond varsity football schedule

All games scheduled for 7 p.m., unless noted

• Aug. 31 St. Helens (7:30 p.m.)

• Sept. 7 Eagle Point

• Sept. 14 at North Eugene

• Sept. 21 at Ridgeview

• Sept. 28 Thurston

• Oct. 5 at North Bend

• Oct. 12 at Willamette

• Oct. 19 Springfield

• Oct. 26 TBD

The Redmond High football team is optimistic that last season’s 1-8 record was a one-time blip.

The Panthers, who open the regular season with a 7:30 p.m. home game Friday against St. Helens, are going into a new league with their third coach in as many seasons. They are confident that the 2018 squad will find success more in line with the 2015 and 2016 teams, which reached back-to-back state quarterfinals.

“I feel like we’re a playoff contender,” said coach Brent Wasche, who takes over at Redmond after years as a successful assistant coach in Texas and Washington state.

“Our goal is to win our division. We’re going to have to take it a game at a time, but, when I look at our schedule, I think that’s a doable deal.”

That doesn’t mean Wasche thinks the league will be easy.

“When you look at teams like Thurston and North Bend in the middle of our schedule, you’re going to have some dogfights there,” he said.

New league

Gone from the schedule are regional rivalries like longtime foe Bend and nearby Summit and Mountain View. With those schools moved up to Class 6A, the Panthers’ new Class 5A Special District 2 will take them to league games in Eugene and the Oregon Coast.

The 12-team league is broken into two divisions. Five playoff spots will be handed out, with the top two teams in each division guaranteed one. The final regular-season game on each team’s schedule is to be determined, with each team playing the team with the same finish in the other division.

That means the two third-place teams will face each other for the final playoff spot.

Ridgeview, which got its only 2017 victory in the season finale against the Panthers, is the lone holdover from last year’s football conference opponents. And even that will be a change from the traditional spot in late October. The Ravens and Panthers will play Sept. 21.

“It’s obviously different playing them so early, but nothing changes,” said senior wide receiver Tony Spinelli. “Whether it’s the first game or the last game, we’re going to go out there and work as much as possible. We’re gonna win, we’re gonna beat ‘em.”

Though it’s his first year in Redmond, Wasche knows the importance of the rivalry between the longtime power and Ridgeview, a school that opened in 2012 and won a Class 4A state title a year later. Along with wanting to improve from last season, both teams will want to play well under a new coach, with Ridgeview’s Patrick Pileggi also taking part in the rivalry for the first time.

“I know my seniors are chomping at the bit,” Wasche said. “They got the best of us last year, so they want some revenge.”

New QB

The Panthers will be led at quarterback by junior Cooper Browning. Though Browning is playing the position for the first time, Wasche likes what he sees.

“He’s a heck of an athlete, throws a good ball, but more than anything, it’s his leadership qualities,” Wasche said. “He’s a kid we can rely on play after play.”

Browning said he relishes taking on the leadership role and becoming more involved with the offense. He hopes to lead the Panthers on a playoff run this season.

“It will be a little different,” he said of the schedule. “We’ve always played the Bend schools, that’s all we’ve known. Playing new teams will be fun too because nobody knows each other.”

Browning is no stranger to athletic success, being named second-team all-Intermountain Conference at shortstop for the Panthers’ baseball team as a sophomore.

The new coaches have brought more discipline, making the players work harder but also letting them have fun, said senior center and inside linebacker Gabe Caudell.

“We were, basically, dealt a pretty bad hand last year,” he said. “This year, we have a good hand, so we’ll make the most of it.”

The Panthers had to practice indoors one day last week after smoke from area fires contaminated the air. It could have been worse.

“We’ve been close a few times, but we were really lucky,” he said.

Wasche was pleased with how the team has come along since he came from Lampasas, Texas, in the spring.

“The team has come a very long way,” he said. “They put in a ton of hard work in the summer, and, right now, we’re rolling.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,