ADAIR VILLEGE — Successive midseason losses to Dayton and Cascade Christian served as a wake-up call for the Santiam Christian football team.
“We were top-ranked in state, we were 4-0 and when we went into Dayton, we thought we were going to win, we felt like we were unbeatable,” two-way senior lineman Jonny Green said, describing SC’s attitude before the Sept. 29 West Valley League showdown with the Pirates.
“We got handed a loss (37-19), and it was tough. The next week, still ranked No. 1, we go to Cascade Christian and get shut out (47-0). That was really tough.
“So the coaches talked to us and said, ‘This has to stop. We can’t keep being lackadaisical in practice.' We needed to keep it up. We turned it around, we put in the work.
“Those two losses were really good for us.”
The result was a four-game winning streak that has powered the Eagles (8-2) into the OSAA 3A quarterfinals. They take the next step toward regaining that No. 1 ranking on Saturday, when they host Eastern Oregon League runner-up Vale (7-3) at 1 p.m.
The victor will face either Rainier or Nyssa in the semifinals on Nov. 18.
SC outscored its opponents 172-58 over its last four outings and erupted for 54 points against Taft, 48 against Amity, and 42 against Colton in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We have been improving a lot,” said Green, a 235-pound two-way tackle. “We had a slump in the middle of the season. We weren’t really working hard in practice.
“These past few weeks we’ve been putting in the hard work on the practice field and it’s been paying off in the games.”
SC coach Matt Bain said Vale poses a big challenge, in the literal and figurative sense. After travelling nearly 400 miles for the game, the Vikings won’t simply roll over.
“They’re a good team, and they’re big, 250 pounds across the front line,” Bain said. “They are always good, a power team, and they’re well-coached.
“They will come ready to play. It will be a good game. They are dangerous, well-balanced, because they can run it and throw it."
The Eagles blasted Colton 42-6 last Friday in the opening round of the playoffs. Bain said there is no magic formula for their recent success; they just have to keep doing what they've been doing, and limit their mistakes.
“Our kids are playing harder, giving better effort and getting better leadership, and just executing,” he said. “We just have to execute, run our stuff, move the ball around and keep them guessing as best we can.
“There are always little things but overall we’re pretty healthy and ready to go.”
Green said that although the stakes are higher on Saturday, it won’t be any different than any other game. Line play will be decisive.
“They are good,” he said. “They have a strong line, a strong QB. They are going to be tough to beat, but I think we can do it.”
SC (2011) and Vale (2014, 2015) have combined to win three of the last six 3A state titles. Vale edged SC 27-20 in the 2015 final.