By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Entering last post-season, the Salem Academy Crusaders Football team weren’t expected to get to the 3A State Championship game, let lone get past teams like Vale (30-28), or Santiam Christian off a Colton Daniels-to-Rylan Stamback late score 34-28.
Well, in 2017, they’re in similar territory with 13 names like Daniels and Stamback gone to graduation, it’s up to the youngin’s coming up through the ranks to help the team make another run at it this year.
Though mostly role players in the runner-up performance in 2016, names like Gage Hazleton, Jacob Haller and offensive lineman Josh Hamilton got some experience during that run and see how it’s done to play in those big games.
“We definitely have a lot of talent this year, we just got to work with it and we’re changing up some of out schemes and everything from last year just because of personnel,” “But I still think we’re going to have a great season this year, we’ve changed some things and we’ll be good. It be fun.”
With those changes, it’ll be fun to see how Salem Academy is going to fair with rival Blanchet Catholtic, a healthy Scio and a emerging Gervais squad that could be looking for their first playoff berth since 2013.
“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a fun season, I just can’t wait for the jamboree and Dayton and then first game against Taft at home,” said Hazleton, who had a interception, a tackle and a kick return for 25 yards in the State Game. “That’s going to be a fun game, I can’t wait.”127
To get to even August 15, the maturity of this young team was something that took some work over the summer workouts, camps and 7-on-7’s. But as they finished up Day 2 of Fall Camp, the progression is right on par.
“I think we’ve grown a lot compare to the beginning of the summer, I think we’re just going to keep on growing as well,” said Hamilton, who saw some time on the line in the State Title game in November. “Both physically learning the plays, like working all as a team as one, taking the same steps. But also mentally, getting to know everybody, just growing friendships.”
Haller, who’s entering his junior year and had two kick-returns in the 3A State Title Game himself, added that what the experience going as far as they did taught them how to play in those big games for when they got the reigns to make their own mark this season.
“Just by the whole experience, we got to learn a lot more than not going so far, and by just going that far we had a lot of leadership and the older guys knowing what they’re doing,” described Haller on the experience. “It gave us a lot of learning opportunities as young guys. So I think there’s a lot we can take away from going that far from the upperclassmen.”
And having those older guys show up at the start of the summer and working with them in 7-on-7, the re-assurance through the message of ‘you got this’ was in the air; and with the jamboree coming up on August 26 at Dayton High School
“So at the jamboree, we’re going to play Rainier, we played them at 7-on-7 earlier this summer and we just have a few things to prove against them,” said Hazleton. “And then it’s good experience for the younger guys who haven’t seen much Varsity time, that they can see what it’s like to be at a Varsity-level and that’ll just carry that week into Taft and just hit them hard.”
8/26 Jamboree At Dayton
9/1 Vs Taft 7pm
9/9 @ Klamath Union 3pm
9/15 @ Blanchet (McCulloch Stadium) 730p
9/22 versus Scio 7pm
9/29 versus Regis 7p
10/6 versus Gervais 7p
10/12 (Thurs) @ Sheridian 7p
10/20 @ Jefferson 7p
10/27 versus Colton 7p
Photos By Jeremy McDonald