By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Both teams try to ignore spectre of last year's championship

Dayton and Santiam Christian are doing their best to downplay their 3A state semifinal game Saturday. They’re saying the right things, saying it’s a different year and what happened last year doesn’t matter.

“The whole rematch angle is a little bit for the drama, I think,” Santiam Christian coach David Lange said. “It’s not really a rematch when you haven’t played them this year.”

Even if both sides are saying those things, one has to suspect it doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about what happened in the 2011 3A state championship game. Santiam Christian came away with the 31-28 victory, winning on a last-second 47-yard field goal. Coaches can talk all they want about forgetting the past, but you can bet players — especially the Pirates — want to even the score with the Eagles.

Lange said from his standpoint, he will use the rematch angle a bit to motivate his players, but he said he’s more pragmatic.

“It’s so hard to measure,” he said of the similarities between Dayton and Santiam Christian. “It’s hard to say anything besides that it’s a different season.”

Dayton and Santiam Christian have played in each of the last five seasons, but Saturday’s game and last year’s final are the biggest of the bunch.

“We’re familiar with each other,” Lange said.

His Eagles return seven starters on each side of the ball from their 2011 state championship team, but it is Dayton who has made another undefeated run through the regular season. Both have veteran senior quarterbacks who have played in big games. Grant Schroeder for Santiam Christian has played in two state championship games (the Eagles lost in 2010 to Rainier), and he threw for 211 yards last year vs. Dayton.

“You’re not going to rattle Grant Schroeder,” Lange said. “He’s not going to get rattled in a big game. And the same can be said for Nathan Bernards.”

Both sides are loaded with talent (Lange’s son, Jordan, is a senior this year and was 3A Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season along with Dayton’s Hayden Craig), but the storyline for Dayton-Santiam Christian can easily be boiled down to one moment. The game-winning field goal.

The Pirates came back from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter to tie the game on a scramble by Bernards, only to watch as Hendrix’s kick floated through the uprights, ending Dayton’s season.

Bernards said at the beginning of the season that he thought about that state championship game every day over the summer and that drove him to work harder. The Eagles weren’t that much better than Dayton, but they just happened to take advantage of a few Dayton mistakes to win.

“Jeff makes that kick and we were state champs,” Lange said. “Does that mean that Dayton was horrible? No. It just means it was a tied game and it could have been anyone’s ball game, and we just happened to hit a play.

“The kid made a kick and everyone was happy on our side and sad on their side.”

Lange said there was only one thing he knew about this year’s semifinal game, held at Willamette University.

“We look for a good game, that’s for sure.”

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