Santiam Christian d Siuslaw
Oct. 15, 2019 — Going into Friday night’s game against Santiam Christian, Siuslaw football coach Sam Johnson knew that it would be a challenge.
“To me, this is the battle that we want, because it will say a lot about who we are as a team,” he said five days before the Viking’s traveled to Adair Village to play the Eagles. By the fourth quarter on Friday, the score was 50-0 for the Eagles.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that,” Johnson said after describing the game as rough. “It started off great for them and really bad for us. We just couldn’t execute anything.”
The Vikings could have easily been shut down at that point, as many teams against Santiam Christian have this season. The now top-ranked Eagles have a habit of slaughtering their opposition — 39-0 against Dayton, 46-0 against Douglas, 39-0 against Scio.
Siuslaw refused to go down that path on Friday, when a 2-yard drive by Camp Lacouture and a 77-yard pass from Elijah Blankenship to Braydon Thornton shut out the Eagles in the fourth.
That’s where the Vikings showed who they really were. It was the battle that made the team, and they fought to the very end. By the end of the night, the Viking’s had gained the smallest spread against Santiam by any other school this season, down by 35 points.
Still, after a four-win-streak win, statistics are meaningless.
“If you’re goal isn’t to be the top dog in the state, then I think you shouldn’t be a football coach,” said Johnson. “So for me, it’s very disappointing. We got an opportunity to play one of those top tier programs, and we failed.”
It’s a failure that has put some shell-shocked Viks fans back in shock, writing the win-streak as a one-off.
“Sure, the team is a little more grounded, focused and humbled. We’re treating this like every game is now a must-win,” said Johnson
Siuslaw was at a disadvantage from the beginning against the Eagles. The Viks were missing three of their starting linemen from the beginning, so “it was kids filling in for spots they don’t normally play. They just struggled blocking those guys.”
But the real issue, Johnson believes, is that he just didn’t prepare his team enough.
“Just getting our guys to focus on what they do defensively. They do a lot of different stuff. Just watching more film with them and breaking it down, I know what they were going to do — but I did a bad job of getting our guys ready for that.”
Santiam Christian, a private school that is able to pull many of its teammates from 5 and 6A schools, is known for their stunts and twisting.
“And when they blitz, they blitz certain guys and different defensive fronts. Our guys were a little shell shocked because nobody does that in 3A consistently like they do.”
During the game, the Viks went to the sidelines and told Johnson, “They’ve got five guys up there now and they’re bringing back side pressure.”
“And that’s something we hadn’t looked at all week. You can’t expect a 15 year-old kid to pick up backside pressure and the C-gap at the exact same time,” said Johnson. “Those are tasks that you would struggle asking NFL players to do. I didn’t expect 15 year-olds to do that.”
Now that they know what kind of a powerhouse Santiam can be, Johnson is eager to go against them again.
“I know we would be prepared,” Johnson said. “I wholeheartedly think if we got another shot at them, we would go and beat them. We would just do things very differently. They were not 35 points better than us. On that night, they were 100 points better than us. But that was because I didn’t get our guys prepared.”
It’s a mistake that Johnson refuses to let happen again on Friday when the Viks square off against Pleasant Hill.
“Pleasant Hill is good. They’re as talented as any 3A team in the state,” Johnson said. “They’re pretty well coached. They know what they do and they do it really well. It’s very similar to what Santiam Christian does. It’s another week when we get to prepare for the spread offense and we get to see if we’re ready for a team like that. I think we will be.”
While the game isn’t a must-win to make it to the playoffs, it’s close for the Viks, which only have three games left in the season.
“If we win two of our next three, we make the playoffs. If we win three, then we should be second in league,” he said.
But if they lose Friday night, they’ll be in a must win-deficit that will be hard to climb out of.
Johnson knows this, saying that Friday night’s home game will be a must watch.
“’I’d say that we’re going to show up Friday with a fire that hasn’t been seen for a long time at Siuslaw.”
Friday’s home game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Hans Petersen Field.