Gervais HS football team to host first home playoff game in decades

The high school playoffs are here for fall sports, and Friday's first round home game for the Gervais High School football team will be a piece of history.
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 6:45 AM PDT
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GERVAIS, Ore. (KPTV) - The high school playoffs are here for fall sports, and Friday’s first round home game for the Gervais High School football team will be a piece of history.

It’s back to the future in Gervais.

“First time hosting in God knows how many years, 50, 100, 70 years, so it’s a big game and a big thing for the city of Gervais of finally being able to wear the name with pride and make something happen here,” said senior Eremay Avgi.

Eisenhower was president, a gallon of gas was 29 cents, and Eggo Waffles first popped from a toaster when it is believed to be the last time the Gervais High School gridiron hosted a home playoff game, in leather helmets, in 1953, but it may have been even longer than that.

“They don’t have a record that they’ve ever hosted a game and so somebody said 1923 and I said, ‘ok, well, 1923,’” said head football coach JJ Navarrete. “But that’s what we’ve been but it could have been that they’ve never hosted because they can’t find it in their books.”

It’s a turnaround of the century in Cougar country. An 8-1 season to claim the second seen out of the 2A Tri-River Conference.

“8-1 is something that’s never been done here ever, so we’ve got to that milestone. Now we are hosting our playoff game, now we need to get passed that milestone,” Navarrete said.

Navarrete is a class of 2002 alum from Woodburn, who took over the Gervais program as head coach during the pandemic fueled freshman year for the current Cougars senior class.

“We worked. We played a varsity schedule with a JV squad, but we never made any excuses,” he said. “We took our lashings like anybody does and we rolled with it.”

Navarrete works construction by day and has commanded respect in his four years of building up the confidence and culture of the Cougs.

“I think Gervais chose me, man,” he said.

“J has been there for me. He is like the father that I never had,” senior Gotti Ramon said.

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“Him preaching us, as family, means a lot of everyone,” sophomore Johnny Mariano said.

From no wins to a decade-plus best of three victories last fall to the sweet success of the here and now in 9-man football.

“The field is more open. We have more running room,” said senior Daniel Kuznetsov.

Gervais welcomes the Toledo Boomers under the Friday Night Lights on their real grass field.

“I have the biggest group of football players this year between the JV team and the varsity team, we have 40 kids out for football which has never been seen at Gervais and I always say, ‘how?’ I must be doing something right. You know what I mean? The coaches that I’ve got, which is a great group of guys that have been with me for a long time, we must be doing something right,” said Navarrete.

Find out how the team does in the Week 10 Playoff edition of Friday Night Lights on FOX 12 Oregon at 10:30 p.m.