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After long, crazy off season, Bulldogs hosting Santiam, and coach looks for everyone to get to play

CHS LOGO  - Culver hosts Santiam Friday night in what is likely their first ever prep football game in March. No fans are allowed. It's not going to be a normal season, but Culver High School is just excited to be able to play football.

The team began practicing on Feb. 8, but at the time no one knew if they would actually be able to play games. When the OSAA announced later in the week that teams could play, Culver head coach Shea Little said that the team was excited.

"We had a meeting on the 8th when the OSAA said it was going to be the final call and we would know for sure and we had disappointment and frustration from our seniors when we said we are still waiting," Little said. "But they bounced back when they found out we could play and they are being outstanding leaders. We just talked in practice today that we are proud of them, and their resilience and coming back and being excited about a short season."

Little said that although the team expects to be competitive that this is not going to be a normal year.

"Our philosophy this season as a coaching staff is to just get all the kids in," he said. "We might go after that first half with all our varsity kids and try to pick a 'W' up, but we are definitely going to get everyone in. It's a short season. There's no RPI, there's no playoffs, we are kind of treating it as an early team camp for our juniors down and we are keeping it as a celebration and a great little short season for our seniors."

Little added that the team does not have enough players for a JV team, but that they are going to try and play an extra quarter, or even a half before the varsity games in order to make sure that everyone gets on the field.

Little added that he has talked to the other athletic directors in Class 2A Special District 2 and that they are all in agreement.

"We talked as athletic directors and we just want to get kids on the field playing," he said. "Our philosophy isn't about getting out there and getting (wins) this year; we are just hoping to play five games. I had four changes last Friday afternoon and people are losing games and saying we can't play if COVID hits, so right now our focus is getting nine practices in to prepare kids for hitting and the physicality of the game, and then play. We should be competitive, but everybody is scrambling just to get kids out there, so if we can play a full game and have special teams and not a ton of injuries, we are going to be excited."

Little added that the team is planning on using the season almost like an extra spring season to get ready for next year.

"We told the juniors down, 'hey, this is an early team camp because in May we start spring football,'" Little said. "June 13 we are going to Boise State for a team camp, so, we are starting the next season basically now — this is just an early jump on it. That's our message to the kids. It's crazy, spring ball is going to start in May for us, so we are going to just roll right into next year."

He added that although there have been a lot of players who are standing out in practice this year, is all about team.

"The focus is just getting kids on the field and having a game," he said. "I would say, we've got eight seniors right now and they have all stepped up and committed and we are all excited to see what they are going to do both on the field and leadership with the team."

Because of the rules that various teams in the league have concerning COVID-19, Culver is going to have just one home game this year. The rest will all be on the road.

"We are all trying to follow these constantly changing requirements from the governor and OHA and OSAA, and we are just happy that we can play," he said. "It's not going to be quite the same experience, but you know our kids like traveling anyway. It's a little bit frustrating having only one home game, but we can't even have a senior night because you can't have fans or spectators. So, it is what it is. It's a crazy time and I think all the coaches across the state and athletic directors are doing a great job, just getting in what we can."

The lone home game will be this Friday when the Bulldogs host Santiam in a 7 p.m. game. With no spectators allowed, Little noted that all of Culver's games will be live-streamed.

"We are going to have a full time continuously playing camera for people that don't understand the game and then we are going to have clip by clip also, so they are going to be able to see their kids," he said. "Obviously the kids were excited about getting to play. To see the kids deal with adversity throughout this last year, but still show up and work hard and be committed and flip the switch just to and show their maturity, that was what was impressive to us, and still is. Now, we just have to be flexible."

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