By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– It seemed so long ago, January 5 a matter of fact, that Stayton found themselves on the outside looking in.
4-9 and in the range of 29th in 4A when they picked up win number five versus Astoria on the road just before league started.
They’ve been knocking on the door up to that point, young team with a sophomore guard in Logan Classen who’s been taking strides in his game this season. Jerry Daniels had back-to-back 20-plus rebound games against Newport and North Marion.
Jordan Butler went full-Robert Horry (or Steph Curry if you want a new school-reference) and drained three-pointers, including the game-winner against Cascade and the Eagles defeated Philomath for the first time in a decade.
Entering their second-meeting with the Warriors Friday on the road, Stayton now sits 12th in the rankings and are riding a six-game winning streak entering the second half of league 10-9 on the season.
“Well, we played a really tough preseason, one of the toughest 4A preseasons,” said Head Coach Joe Kizer on playing much of the Cowpa League and the Capital City Classic. “Played in the Capital City Classic…we went in feeling pretty battled-tested coming into league, and the toughest thing is keeping them mentally-focused on league. RPI-wise we were 29 at one point, 4-9 record and playing teams pretty tough and just not closing out.
“We’re really younger than I thought we would be coming into the season and that showed, not closing out games and being in tight games down the stretch and not capitalizing on every possession which is what we’re doing right now.”
As one of the few seniors on the team, Daniels is leading by example as they now try to embrace that target on their backs that hasn’t been there before until now.
“It means a lot for me to leave something for these guys to remember and a thought in their minds to work hard, so I just got to keep pushing myself to make these guys better,” said Daniels on leaving his mark.
During Thursday practices scrimmage, Tony Schoenborn was coaching his teammates up in between down periods as they began to wrap up practice they were pushing each other as their coach was during practice, knowing that it was that which got them to eventually breaking through that figurative roof with Friday’s game looming.
“It was the practices, coach kept pushing us, kept yelling at us and we just put it in our minds that we got to keep on doing what we’re doing to get the job done,” said Daniels. “We just going to keep working in practice and just let the game come to us.”
Kiser pointed to the fact that Stayton hasn’t been in this position in some time. A few years in a matter of fact since the Eagles been in this position with Philomath and Cascade owning the top two spots for much of the past few years.
Kiser also points to their 58-54 loss to Corbett on January 2, about 10 days before the win that started the winning streak, as that moment this team began to turn the tide on the season.
“We talk a lot about every game that we haven’t done anything yet. It’s 0-0 right now is our mindset coming in every game,” “We talk about never getting too high after this win, we enjoy it that night and next day at practice it’s back to work and these kids have done a really good job of that.
“After our loss to Corbett, we’ve been a different team. We’ve came in and that was a bad loss and what we had is a different focus as a group. A different focus in practice, we’ve been practicing hard since that loss and we just talk about our goals a lot. Our goals is to win this league and we have a chance to, we don’t talk about being in the driver seat because there’s five games left. We slip up tomorrow, we slip up at Cascade and it’s open again. We take it one-game at a time, one-second at a time, one-possession at a time.”
And if there’s anytime to look for that statement, to make one to the league and to the State that Stayton is back, it starts Friday at Philomath.
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Photo By Jeremy McDonald