For all intents and purposes, Saturday will just be “another game” for Cascade Christian and Amity when they square off in the Class 3A football state semifinals at Cottage Grove High School.
Albeit for just another game, it sure does lend itself to quite a bit of hype given the background for each team.
Second-seeded Amity enters the 2:15 p.m. clash as the state’s top-scoring team at the 3A level (553 points for a 50.3 average per game) and on a mission to regain its past glory after reaching the state championship in six straight years from 1998-2003 (winning all but in 2002).
The Warriors (10-1) haven’t made it this far since winning their last 3A title in 2009, but none of that matters for Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman, noting current Amity coach Joel Magill was on staff during the school’s heyday.
“They definitely have a pedigree there, for sure,” said Gettman. “I think for our kids it’s about not getting caught up with emotions and just to play hard each and every down and go back to what we’ve been working on since Day 1.”
The No. 3 Challengers (10-1) are no slouch in the pedigree department themselves, and have their own set of statistics to back up a claim for confidence heading into Saturday’s clash. Cascade Christian is the defending 3A state champion and also won in 2013 after a runner-up showing in 2012. The Challengers have scored the second-highest points at the 3A level (527 for a 47.9 average) while also limiting teams to the least amount of points (114 for a 10.4 average) through another stellar season.
“Defensively we’ve been playing well,” said Gettman. “The overall execution and camaraderie of this team has been fun to see.”
Saturday’s matchup in Cottage Grove has a bit of that “must-see” quality, with the other 3A semifinal between No. 1 Rainier and No. 5 Vale at 4 p.m. in Hermiston.
Amity’s offense stands to be the most balanced and potent Cascade Christian has seen thus far, with the Warriors amassing 416 yards rushing and 515 overall thanks to a stout offensive line and some top skill players to back them up.
Senior running back West Streeter, at 5-foot-7 and 200 pounds, has run 174 times for 2,013 yards and 27 touchdowns to lead the charge for Amity. Streeter has hit the century mark in rushing during 10 games thus far, and is a handful when coming out of the Warriors’ Wing-T formation.
“He’s a tough hard-nosed runner, and he hits the hole quick,” said Gettman. “He runs a lot of trap inside stuff and he just hits it with power and hits it quickly.”
Streeter is far from alone, with Amity leaning on a host of senior runners to move the football. Jonathan Mather (6-0, 190) has run 91 times for 745 yards and 12 scores, with Brian Hatch (5-7, 150) at 63 carries for 663 yards and seven TDs and Seth Valencia (5-6, 155) at 37 carries for 404 yards and three scores.
The Warriors will sometimes also adopt a double-wing approach but typically keep a receiver split out wide to maintain a passing threat for senior quarterback Tyler Parr (6-1, 200).
“They do a lot of different things and are able to hit every gap on the field,” said Gettman. “They present a lot of challenges. With their ability to run the ball and then it sets up play-action (passing), and that’s the toughest thing to stop. Their quarterback does a great job of selling it.”
Parr is more capable through the air than your usual Wing-T QB, having completed 59 of 88 passes for 1,064 yards, 19 TDs and two interceptions. He’s been adept at spread his targets around, with junior Payton Richardson (6-4, 170) leading the way with 29 catches for 657 yards and 10 scores.
Mather has capitalized as much as any through the air with his nine catches going for 211 yards and four TDs, while sophomore tight end Josh Wart (6-5, 200) has made his mark with 10 catches for 109 yards and two TDs and Hatch has five catches for 77 yards and a score.
So how do you slow the state’s most prolific offense?
“It’s just a matter of really doing a great job with the game-planning and putting kids in position to be successful,” said Gettman, “and then just being disciplined because they’ll get your eyes wrong with some different things in the backfield and you’ve got to really be responsible to the gap that you are assigned.”
Similar to last week’s stifling of Scio, Gettman said it will also take a team-first approach with as many players as possible called upon to get the job done.
“We’re only going to get just a few guys to the ball this week so we’re going to need guys to be able to make those tackles,” said the coach.
To help combat that, Cascade Christian will also need similar execution on the offensive end against an Amity squad that has allowed an average of only 15.7 points per game but did see its only setback come in a 60-54 loss at Rainier.
Junior quarterback Kiegan Schaan has completed 133 of 238 passes for 2,059 yards, 26 TDs and five interceptions while also running for 655 yards and 14 scores.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Schaan has also been able to spread the wealth when it comes to perimeter targets, with senior John Fralich (40 catches, 732 yards, nine TDs), sophomore Kristian Fralich (36 catches, 555 yards, 8 TDs) and senior Ian Fralich (25 catches, 339 yards, six TDs) tops among the playmakers.
Helping provide balance for the Challengers has been a gritty offensive line that has allowed senior Luke Smith to run for 856 yards and 13 scores and junior Elijah Smith to add 493 yards and seven TDs to the mix.
Defensively, the Smith brothers have joined with Schaan to lead the way, with all three Fralichs and junior linebacker Cade Sample providing consistent support after the defensive line has consistently held its position up front.