ADAIR VILLAGE — Santiam Christian High committed three turnovers and couldn’t slow down Junction City running back Gabriel Ward on Friday night.
The result was a 42-13 loss to the visiting Tigers in a 3A Special District 2 contest.
Ward ran for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass for Junction City (4-0, 3-0 SD2).
“He’s just a good player. Great athlete, good runner and they used him well. We were just struggling to do our fundamental stuff and they just beat us,” said Santiam Christian coach Matt Bain.
The Tigers scored on their opening drive as Ward broke through the defensive line and found space down the visiting sideline for a 61-yard touchdown run. Ward also found the end zone on the 2-point conversion as the Tigers took an 8-0 lead.
Santiam Christian turned the ball over on its opening drive as Junction City’s Kaleb Burnett jumped in front of a pass by Eagles quarterback Jared Mehlschau.
But the Santiam Christian defense was able to come of with a stop, recovering a fumbled snap to give the ball back to the offense near midfield. The Eagles took advantage on a quick drive capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Mehlschau to tight end Bryant Jones. The extra-point by Caleb Ness made the score 8-7.
The Tigers answered with a 65-yard scoring drive capped by a short run by Ward.
Junction City added to its lead in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from quarterback Colby Evans to Burnett.
Santiam Christian fumbled the ensuing kickoff to give the Tigers a short field. Junction City didn't waste the opportunity and a goal-line run by Levi Walker gave the Tigers a 26-7 advantage.
Santiam Christian answered with its biggest play of the game. Mehlschau found wide receiver Jackson Risinger for a 51-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 26-13 late in the first half.
But Junction City regained the momentum before halftime. Burnett caught a deep kickoff at the 4-yard line and cut through the Eagles kickoff unit before being brought down at the Santiam Christian 25 with 1 minute left in the second quarter.
On the final play of the first half, Evans found Ward in the left flat and he outraced the Eagles defenders to the end zone as the Tigers stretched their advantage, 34-13.
A long touchdown run by Ward was the only scoring play of the second half.
The Eagles had an opportunity score in the fourth quarter, driving deep into Tigers territory. But the Eagles fumbled the ball near the goal line and the ball went out of bounds in the end zone, giving possession back to Junction City.
“They played well. We just hurt ourselves. We’ve just got to get our team lined up. We’re missing some guys and it’s really showing,” Bain said.
Mehlschau has missed time and was able to take part in just two practices this week. The Eagles were also playing without senior linebacker Heston Bain, their defensive signal caller.
Santiam Christian (3-2, 1-1 SD2) will play at La Pine (2-3) on Friday.
Junction City 42, Santiam Christian 13
Junction City 14 20 0 8 — 42
Santiam Christian 7 6 0 0 — 13
JC — Ward 61 run (Ward run), 10:52
SC — Jones 30 pass from Mehlschau (Ness kick), 5:09
JC — Ward 3 run (PAT missed), 1:51
JC — Burnett 9 pass from Evans (conversion failed), 7:14
JC — Walker 1 run (PAT missed), 4:28
SC — Risinger 51 TD from Mehlschau (PAT missed), 1:12