After having key injuries to several players this season, Joseph coach Rusty Eschler kept his team focused and optimistic and reminded that it's still a long season. With two overwhelming defeats to start the season - the Eagles could have just easily thrown in the towel - but they didn't.
After playing more competitive against South Wasco and Cove in recent weeks, Eschlers group is playing hard and making some noise in the division (1A special district 4). A big confidence boost for the Eagles came this week when the chance to have quarterback Chris Harshman and running back Tyler Coppin were going to be on the same field for the first time all season.
"The main thing for them [Chris, Tyler] is to get there timing down," Eschler said. "It'll be like training camp for both of them the next couple of weeks...but were happy to have them both back on the field."
The Eagles could use any momentum that they had as they went to Imbler to take on the division leading Panthers. After leading 6-0 after the first quarter - the Panthers found themselves in a shootout against Joseph in the second quarter with the Eagles outscoring Imbler 20-16. However, seven of Imblers 16 points came off an 85-yard kickoff return with just a minute and six seconds remaining before half time.
"We just scored on the previous play to give us the lead, and than to turnaround and have that happen to us, it just took the air out of us," Eschler said. "With those turn of events happening right before the half, I think it carried over to the third quarter because we came out a little flat to start the quarter."
The Panthers would never relinquish the lead after that and would go on to a 34-26 victory. Joseph (1-1, 1-4 overall) held its own against undefeated Imbler - by compiling 273 yards of total offense against a tough defense.
"Imbler played good and for the most part, it was a very even game," Eshler said. "I'm very pleased with our effort, the offense executed well and the offensive line did a good job. We just had two big plays [interception return, fumble return] that hurt us in the long run. As a team, we need to work on our discipline and learn how to finish games."
The Eagles won't have time to dwell on the tough loss as they travel to Pine Eagle (0-2 2-4 overall) to take on the Spartans.
"They're a good team and a very interesting team at that. Their defense plays 3-2, and even sometimes a 3-1, formation. They're well coached and it should be a good ball game," Eschler said.