The Cougars won't start the heart of the football season lightly. If anything, they begin with the biggest challenge of all.
For Wallowa High, the Class 1A Special District 4 schedule opens on Friday afternoon, when the Cougars travel to nearby Imbler. They will take on the league's preseason favorite.
Already this season, Imbler (4-0 record) has made short work of its opposition. Prairie City, Harper, Sherman and Perrydale have gone down. The combined score of all four Imbler games was 226-52.
This season, senior quarterback Nick Thompson completed 33 of 44 pass attempts for 722 yards and 8 touchdowns. Sophomore Bryan Mills rushed for 373 yards and 9 touchdowns on just 42 carries. Mills also caught a couple of passes from Thompson for scores.
Thompson and Mills are just a couple of returning stars in Imbler's experienced nucleus. The Panthers also have seniors on the offensive line - Frank Smith, Joe Coughlan, Sean Peterson and Taylor McIntosh - who open big holes for the speedy backs.
Last year, Wallowa and Imbler battled in a great game that went down to its final seconds. The Panthers led, 42-38, with just seven seconds left in the game. Then Bradon Mahon hit Kaleb Oveson with an 11-yard scoring pass to pull out the dramatic win.