By Jeremy McDonald
SPRINGFIELD, Ore.—It came down to one final weekend to leave it all out on the field because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed when it comes to come out and compete.
Over 30 teams competed Sunday at the Hamlin Sports Complex for the ‘State Championship’ game in the High School level. A mixture of High School team’s playing as clubs and travel 7-on-7 teams competed in waves to limit the amount of people in the facilities at one time.
As the temperature cooled in the November air, the heat of competition increased.
West Salem’s Jack Bennett, playing with the Titan’s Black squad, sealed the West Salem 16-14 win over eventual tournament Runner-Up GymClub with an interception. Sparking momentum that the squad used to the PM semi-final rematch with the same GymClub squad later in the afternoon session.
“It was great with the team celebrating with me celebrating after the pick. I think it helped us with our momentum going into the next game, I’m just glad I could help my team,” said Bennett. “It’s always so great playing better competition, I’m just glad we had a good game (the second time), I wish we would’ve come out on the other end. We played well, just wait until pads get on. Our team will look good.
“We’re playing more football than we’re ever had before the season even starts. I think we’ll be really good. Our timing with our quarterback is great, our defense is doing great. It’ll be great.”
It was a time to bond. Time to play again. Time to compete. For many of them, last time they competed was basketball season prior to Week 1 of this league. Maybe some baseball if they were able to get an inning or two in.
West Albany’s TJ Zimmerman was one of McNary’s Jack McCarty’s favorite targets this season. The six-foot-four-inch, 235-pound behemoth prior to the league started up, hadn’t had a competitive minute since the morning of March 12 when the Bulldogs lost to Crook County at Gill Coliseum in the 5A State Playoffs. So, it was a nice breath of fresh air to be able to do it again.
“This was awesome. For Fui (Alex Fuimaono) setting this whole thing up with everything going around with Covid, this is the first competition I’ve had since the State Tournament for basketball. This was awesome, this is great,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman mentioned the slow start they had as a team before catching fire as they wheeled off two tough wins following their 21-14 win over the Titan Black team where Zimmerman and Tini Tinitali were a one-two punch going into the State Championship bout with the Celtic Football Club from McNary High School.
“I think we all stepped up. We all came out here kind of undermanned, we didn’t have all of our guys, our offensive coordinator was calling great plays the whole time and we were taking advantage of what we saw. Our whole offense played great. Most of our defense, most of those guys don’t play defense so they did a good job stepping up,” said Zimmerman. “It’s tough, we really wanted to win. We started off not hot today and then go into bracket and got win-after-win, keep fighting and grinding. It’s tough, we were close.”
With McCarty with GymClub, the lights of the situation shined for Junior Taylor Copeland. Going up against McCarty for the State Championship. And he stepped up with two touchdowns and an interception on defense to help lead the Celtic Football Club to the 23-7 Championship victory Sunday evening to close out the season.
For Copeland, who broke his femur last year, he admitted that he knew he had to step up as his Celts were going up against a team they’re familiar with.
“We knew most of their players on their team and with us, there’s a lot of competition. It was all fun and games,” said Copeland. “We had AM bracket, so we had to get out here really early and it was not the best, but we stayed here for the day and we came out with the win.
“We came out here with the right energy needed and we really wanted this bad and it came with the result.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald