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  • Ednold

Prospect 10/7/22

It was another cloudy, hazy, foggy, smoggy, smokey day as we headed south out of the valley and up into the hills. We got off the main road in Canyonville and took Highway 227 east. That wasn't one of my better decisions, and I’ll just tell you now that if you’re ever trying to get to the town of Prospect from the north, don’t make the mistake of thinking 227 is the way to go. I made that mistake because I knew the actual road could not possibly be as twisted as my map made it look. Ha! Your passengers will thank you for taking the extra 15 minutes it takes to go down to Medford and back up on Highway 62, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up the barf from the floor of the car. Why they ever bothered to build that road I can’t tell you, but on a positive note, the further up into the hills we got the clearer everything became, and what had started out as a cool early autumn day down below turned into a downright hot afternoon a few thousand feet higher. 227 merges with 62 about 20 miles from Prospect, and 62 is the road to Crater Lake, so from that point on the road was considerably straighter.

Pearsony Falls - Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the town of Prospect, and even after seeing it I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s less of a town and more of a very loose group of houses, businesses, churches and government property that inhabit an unincorporated area spreading out east of the highway. Being unincorporated, it’s missing some of the infrastructure of most other towns, like curbs and sidewalks, but it does have its own school district, a library, an airport, and a state park. It has the feel of other communities high up in the mountains, with lots of ponderosa pine trees, the distinctive volcanic soil, and the dry air that reminds you you’re not in the valley anymore. It has the feel of a place that could turn itself into a real resort community if it wanted to, but there are no signs that they do and that's nice to see.

Prospect began in 1870 as a logging town, and it got a post office in 1882 that was named after the first postmaster, a Mr. Deskins. Then in 1889, when plans were made for a railroad to connect the town with Medford, the name was changed from Deskins to Prospect. My dictionary lists one possible definition of prospect as “the possibility that something fabulous will happen”. I guess they were just being optimistic. Since 1892, when the Historic Prospect Hotel opened, the town has been a stop for tourists coming to enjoy the scenery or just stopping by on their way to and from Crater Lake.

With a little time before the game started, we checked out the Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint along the Rogue River on the southern edge of town. There are really nice walking trails taking you to several waterfalls along Mill Creek and the river, and you can see the Avenue of Boulders along the river also; huge rocks that were blasted twenty miles downhill when Crater Lake was created over 7,000 years ago. It's definitely worth a stop next time you're in Prospect. After working up an appetite on our little excursion, it was time for a pregame meal at the Prospect Cafe. You won’t find many frills there, but the food is good and when you’re done you can just walk through the door to the Trophy Room for a post-meal drink while you gawk at all the trophies hanging on the walls. PETA members may want to skip that part, but there’s a lot to see and I imagine they get pretty busy during the summer when Prospect has their annual Jamboree and Timber Carnival, or the Blue Grass Festival, or the Fly-In, where dozens of planes fly in to the Prospect State Airport and the pilots and passengers party in Prospect for the weekend. They’re probably the people who’ve driven Highway 227 before and decided they’d rather risk their lives in some dinky airplane than ever drive that road again.

A big bonus of the Cafe and Trophy Room is that they’re directly across the street from the football field, so we moved The Bucket to the other parking lot and were ready for some football. We had come to see the Prospect Charter/Butte Falls football team host the Bonanza Antlers in a matchup of two 1A Special District 1 South 8-man teams. Prospect Charter has always been the Cougars, and this combined team is the Cougars even though Butte Falls are the Loggers. They decided to join their teams together for the first time last season, since neither team had enough players to field a team of their own. They played in a 6-man league last year and finished 3-5, which isn't bad when you consider none of the players or coaches had even seen 6-man football until the season started. After moving up to the 8-man level this season things haven’t gone quite as well, but they would be playing a 2-3 Bonanza team that had lost its last 3 games, so maybe this was their chance to get their first win of the season.

The south (home) un-grandstands

Prospect does have prior experience with 8-man football, though, even though none of the current players were alive at the time. Between 1967 and 1982 they played for the state championship 8 times under 4 different coaches, winning the 8-man championship in 1967. They then lost 6 other title games, including 2 on their home field, before tying Cove for the title in 1982, and haven’t been back since. Butte Falls also has some championship experience, losing the old B classification title game in 1970 before winning it in 1973 and 1986. It hasn’t shown itself yet this season, but with 11 title game appearances between them, there is a legacy of success in this combined Prospect/Butte Falls team.

North (visitors) seating and the "press box"

On our way in, the lady with the cash box asked us each for a $1 donation. It seems like they may want to consider upping the price a little, but I didn’t argue with her and we walked in the gate. I won’t use the term “grandstand” to describe the home seating at the Prospect football field, but given the size of the town I figured the tiny stands were probably big enough to hold us and anyone else who showed up. They were just small portable aluminum bleachers, but the population of Prospect hovers around 500 and just driving around the town you get the feeling that that figure is greatly inflated. There is an odd concrete seating structure over on the north side of the field for visitors that was also small but plenty big enough to hold those who would be making the trip from Bonanza. The press box, such as it was, consisted of a tower erected behind the visitors, and I’m still not clear what purpose it served, exactly. There was someone up there, but they didn’t appear to be doing anything. There is no running track at the field, so spectators can, and do, get close to the action in front of them on the natural grass field.

By game time it was clear that I had totally missed the mark on my prediction of the size of the crowd that would be showing up. I still don’t know where they all came from, but there had to be at least 300 people in attendance, with our puny bleachers only able to hold about 50 of them. Everyone else seemed to have been prepared for this, arriving with their camp chairs and making themselves comfortable along the sideline from one end of the field to the other. Behind them, and behind us, was a large empty area between the football field and gymnasium that served as the playground for all of the kids who couldn’t sit still for a few hours and watch the football game. By the second half I was tempted to join them, but I know how much you all count on my accurate reports of the games, so I stayed in my seat.

In this case, however, probably the less said, the better. The good news is that Prospect/Butte Falls have themselves a football team. The bad news is that of the 21 players on their roster there is one senior and 3 juniors, and what they’re lacking in size, which is considerable, they make up for with their slowness. Bonanza has more players, and those players are bigger, faster, and more experienced than the Cougars could handle. There was no lack of effort, but the Cougars were down 22-0 after one quarter and 44-0 at halftime.

But again, the night was saved by other features of the gamenight experience. The Cougars don’t have a pep band or a mascot walking around in a costume, but they do have the smallest cheer squad I’ve ever seen, and for four quarters those three girls did their best to keep up the spirits of the old people in those tiny stands in front of them as they watched their team get pummeled on the field. And, for the second time in three weeks, we got to see another junior cheerleader night. The tiny cheerers did their little show at halftime in what turned out to be the highlight of the evening. And the place was absolutely packed with people for the entire game. By my calculations, every house in town must have at least a dozen people living in it, and all of them turned out to see the Cougars against the Antlers.

Fortunately, the lopsided score meant that the clock wouldn’t be stopping in the second half due the mercy of OSAA rules, but a trip to the concession stand set up in the gymnasium was still a welcome excuse to avert my eyes from the game for a few minutes. I really wasn't hungry, but it was a fundraiser for the middle school and, like I said, I needed a break for a few minutes and the coffee kept me warm for the chilly second half.

That running-clock mercy rule is in place because there are people, like the Bonanza coaching staff, who have no mercy of their own. To give only the most blatant example, they called timeout in the fourth quarter to set up a play to score one final touchdown with two minutes left in the game when they were already up 54-0. It was a little disgusting, but if anyone else felt the same way they kept it to themselves.

It wasn't a triumphant night for the Cougars but we still haven't been to Butte Falls, so in a few years when we go there to see this team play again I expect all of those underclassmen will be ready to exact their revenge on the Antlers for this 60-0 defeat. I'll be looking forward to that, and to the completion of the straight highway to Butte Falls that I pray someone is working on right now.

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