By Jeremy McDonald
COTTAGE GROVE, Ore.– There was no doubt there was excitment in the air when Salem Academy took the field versus rival Blanchet Catholic Saturday morning.
A lot was riding on it: Bragging rights and a State Title aspirations probably tops the list for both teams
Salem Academy got out to a fast, fast start against their rival with a quick 21-0 lead during the second quarter of Saturday’s game.
It was a combustible combination of sort as they came out fired up from the opening kickoff.
“It’s amazing,” described Daniels. “It definitely fueled our fire because we were pumped up before the game, we knew we can beat them again so it was great to come out with a early lead and then we were just saying, ‘if we score again, it’s over’, like that nail in the coffin.”
Daniels would leave the game during the second quarter due to injury, and the offense sputtered a bit as Kolby McCallum was finding his groove at quarterback.
The slight slow down allowed the Cavs to build some confidence and cut into Crusader lead, but Salem Academy rode the hot hand of their strong defense that’s helped them so much this postseason to stay out front as time was winding down in the fourth quarter with Salem Academy up 33-20 as the excitement grew on both sides.
One wanted the late comeback versus their rival, the other, for the sweep and to head to their first State Title Game since 1989.
“It’s just so exciting and we just pushed through it,” said Grant Webb. “We just fought together and got the job done.”
The job to this point was to get to job completion and the clocks to read zero as Blanchet marched down and scored with 20 seconds left, but Salem Academy had to get to recover the ensuring on-side kick to seal the 33-26 victory.
They did just that as McCallum knelled the ball to start the celebrations for the Crusaders.
The emotions were high as they hugged each other, the crowd roaring behind them in support. A team that was seeded 14th, barely getting into the Field of 16, is heading to the biggest stage of their lives.
Skyler Williams mentioned how they proved the ‘haters’ who doubted them all season long wrong when asked about the journey to the big dance.
For Hunter BeDoya and the rest of the SA boys, it’s unbelievable that they are here as the student section chants of ‘On To State’.
“I can’t, I physically can’t, we’re going to the ‘Ship,” he said with a giant grin. “It’s fantastic, it’s even better that we’re a 14th-seed knocking out everybody. So we expect we have Coquille or Harrisburg.”
“It’s something I’m going to remember,” BeDoya said of this moment.
Now, as they wait their opponent, they know they must need to keep doing what has been working for them to this point: pound and grind.
“We just have to keep pounding and grinding,” said BeDoya. “We’re on a roll right now, we just have to keep the wheels going.”
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