Editor’s note: This story is part of The Chronicle’s 2023 fall sports preview special section. To see the full issue, grab a copy of the August 31 edition at any local Dari Mart on Wednesday, or give us a call at our office: 541-515-6233.
PLEASANT HILL – Jeremiah Heacock’s first season as head coach at Pleasant Hill football began with three straight wins before the Billies finished 3-6.
With four returning starters on both sides of the ball, Heacock sees the potential for more staying power in his second year on the job.
“Hopefully we can stay healthy and maintain our competitiveness throughout the season,” Heacock said. “It is a good league with some good match-ups for us. If we can stay healthy and competitive, I think we can improve from last year.”
The Billies opened last season with nonconference wins at Cottage Grove and Salem Academy before defeating Harrisburg 20-14 to begin Mountain Valley Conference play. Pleasant Hill finished sixth in the conference at 1-5.
After scoring 71 points in its three wins, Pleasant Hill totaled 39 points in six losses.
“We have two all-league players returning and a solid senior group with a junior group coming on,” Heacock said. “I think they are doing a good job, we are trying to establish a new culture and they are all buying in.”
Heacock was the longtime defensive coordinator for Justin Starck at Thurston before he arrived at Pleasant Hill.
“I want physicality on defense and I am seeing some of that,” he said during the first week of fall camp.
Junior Kaden Howes and sophomore Jacob Neely both earned all-conference honors at defensive back last year. They also star at wide receiver on offense.
“They bring some experience and route running at receiver,” Heacock said. “On defense, they have coverage skills and recognition skills. They are coachable and work hard.”
The rest of the spots on offense are up for grabs including the offensive line, where Heacock is building depth. Four or five quarterbacks are battling for the starting job while a handful of players could form a committee at running back.
“We want to have a multiple formation, dynamic offense,” Heacock said.
Heacock had more opportunities to work with his players during the offseason heading into his second season.
“We had more buy-in, more opportunities for 7-on-7s and workouts,” he said.
Pleasant Hill opens the season at the Sutherlin Jamboree on Aug. 25 before beginning the regular season at home on Sept. 1 against Cottage Grove, which it defeated 26-0 last season.
The Billies also visit Salem Academy in nonleague play before beginning conference play at home against Harrisburg on Sept. 15.
The game against the Eagles begins a stretch of four out of five games at home before finishing up at Creswell and Siuslaw.