pil football

Benson sweats out summer

The schools' athletic program will continue after some worries
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

PORTLAND - For an athletic program that survived plenty of rumors of being cut entirely this summer, Monday’s opening day of conditioning practices was a welcome relief at Benson High School.

Now, the real sweating begins.

Benson’s fall teams, as with all other programs across the state, began non-contact drills Monday heading into one of the hottest forecasts on record. And, they’re happy to deal with it.

"We were all a little bit nervous about what might happen," senior Tariq Walker said Monday. "I'm glad to be on the field again. I'm not worried about the heat, or the season really. I don't know how many guys we might have come out, or what to expect about winning, so it's just go out and play hard and do the best you can. That's what we can focus on."

Benson's football team is set to play an independent schedule - one outside of the Portland Interscholastic League, as it did a year ago, with the goal of returning to PIL league play. Although the school is classified as 6A as with the other PIL schools, it's schedule is made up primarily of Class 5A schools, and other independent teams - Glencoe of Hillsboro is also playing an independent schedule.

Third-year head coach Devarieous Sly-Clay said he felt confident the Techmen would play this fall, in all varsity sports, based on conversations and testimony from coaches to the district in spring. But, he said he wasn't fully given the green light until early July.

"(The district athletic office) pretty much told us they weren't going to cut athletics this year," Sly-Clay said. "But, they didn't say anything about next year.

"They're doing a lot of data collection to see whether athletics works out here, but they're missing a key point in getting input from the kids. It makes a huge difference to a lot of these kids to have athletics at their school. Hopefully, they'll take that into consideration."

Benson dropped football in 2014 due to low numbers, and is slowly bringing it back in spite of not having any kind of feeder program. The PIL is promoting youth football with posters across the community, but it only represents eight of the nine schools - Benson does not have a youth program.

Benson suited up two dozen players for most of its games last year, including a girl who is on the roster again this year as a receiver. The team expects to add an exchange student from Germany when daily doubles begin Aug. 14

They're coming off what could easily be considered a highly successful season - winning three games.

Senior Tyler Phillips, the team's returning quarterback, said the football team is a significant element to his high school experience, especially since he's been involved in athletics since age 3.

"Sports has been such a huge part of my life, it would be a tremendous letdown if it were taken away," said Phillips, who also plays baseball. "Sports teaches you discipline, respect, so many other things. If helps you sort out your time, like for training, like you would for studying for a class.

"I hope we can have a great season, a great experience and get people excited so there's a team for the freshmen and sophomores to play on next year."

Sly-Clay said he anticipates around two dozen players again to be part of the program in two weeks, and is hopeful a letter being sent out to incoming freshmen might bring in enough players for a freshman team. Benson is in a unique situation in that there is such a demand to attend the school that most students are selected through a lottery system. Having a youth program that got a student into the school through athletics could easily be seen as recruiting.

"Benson is a great school, but it's got more than a few things working against it in terms of athletics," he said. "It would be great if there was some way we could get student-athletes here without it being looked at as recruiting."

BENSON SCHEDULE

Sept. 1     Milwaukie (5A)

Sept. 8     Parkrose (5A)

Sept. 15   At Woodburn (5A - independent)

Sept. 22   Fort Vancouver, Wash., 5:30 p.m. Homecoming

Sept. 29   Rainier (3A)

Oct. 6       Heritage, Wash.

Oct. 12     Glencoe (Independent)

Oct. 20     At The Dalles (5A - Independent)

Oct. 27     At Kings Way Christian, Wash.

 

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