ADAIR VILLAGE — There have been no shortcuts to success for the Santiam Christian High football team during its two-game waltz through the OSAA 3A state football playoffs.
The Eagles needed no smoke, mirrors or other trickeration in eliminating Colton (42-6) and Vale (50-6) to reach the semifinals for the sixth time in the past eight years. The same will be true on Saturday, when SC (9-2) faces Rainier (9-2) in an 11 a.m. semifinal matchup at Hillsboro Stadium.
“It all hinges on leadership and effort, and what you’re doing every day,” SC coach Matt Bain said following the lopsided victory over Vale, SC’s fifth straight triumph. “We’ve really improved along those lines” since back-to-back midseason losses to Dayton and Cascade Christian knocked the Eagles out of the No. 1 ranking.
“No one is going to hand you anything,” Bain added. “We’re looking at our next game and Rainier is a very worthy opponent. I thought all year they were going to be one of the top two teams, and here they are.
“They are a tough-looking football team.”
The 11th-seeded Columbians took second to Clatskanie in the Lewis & Clark League, and are road-tested so far in the playoffs. They went halfway across the state and defeated host La Pine 28-22 in the opening round, and then traveled completely across Oregon to clobber No. 3-seeded Nyssa 40-6 in the quarterfinals.
Their losses were to 3A playoff semifinalist Scio (28-20) on opening night, and to Clatskanie (41-31). Clatskanie also made the playoffs but lost to Vale in the round of 16.
“Everyone is good now,” Bain said. “You’re down to four teams and Rainier has the combination of size — they are big and strong — and they can throw it too, with a good quarterback and receivers.
“They are dangerous.”
Rainier junior quarterback/linebacker Joey Tripp was second-team all-league on offense and the player of the year on defense. Wide receiver/defensive back Dawson Carr was the co-player of the year on offense, and first-team all-league on defense.
Easton Crape and Chris James were two-way, all-league linemen. Tight end Jake Bruce and defensive back Caymon Rea were also first-team all-league.
SC has outscored its opponents 222-64 during its ongoing five-game winning streak, which started on Oct. 13 with a 54-7 rout of Taft at Lincoln City. The Eagles placed second to Dayton in the West Valley League, and were seeded No. 2 entering the playoffs.
So far they’ve lived up to their ranking, and are playing their best football of the fall.
“You have to jell,” Bain said. “The question is, when do you do that? At this level you’re going to have trouble playing at your highest level all season.
“We learned some lessons at midseason. So, now we’re coming together.”
The Eagles outgained Vale 389-173 in the quarterfinals, and much of Vale’s offense came against reserves late in the fourth quarter. The quicker Eagles sliced and diced a huge Vikings’ defensive front for 234 yards rushing, and senior quarterback Grant Carley was 11 of 20 for 155 yards and a TD.
Junior tailback Matt Janssen scored four of SC’s six rushing touchdowns.
“It’s going to be a good game,” he said in previewing Saturday’s semifinal. “Rainier is a good team. Hopefully we’ll have a good matchup against them.”
Top-seeded Scio and fourth-seeded Cascade Christian play at noon on Saturday at Cottage Grove in the other semifinal. The victors advance to the championship game, set for Nov. 25 at a to-be-determined site and time.