By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.– It was a blessing in disguise. They would’ve been happy with one game let-alone the four that they got this season.
It wasn’t the picture-book ending to the High School football careers of Gabe Lanham and Alex Mitchell, but for one last time in the Santiam uniforms…they got to wear them one last time, play in them one more time and represent the Canyon one last time Thursday night against Jefferson.
“It means everything,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t think we were going to have a season. Coming out and all of these guys that showed up, worked their asses off and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the team.”
Coming off recovering an opening onside kick, Mitchell scored the opening touchdown on his and Lanham’s Senior night. Two-point conversion and it was 8-0 Wolverines.
Santiam has been a young team this year, using the short-season not just to get back onto the field, but the short-season also gave them to bring the younger kids up to snuff for the Fall when hopefully things are a bit more normal than they are now.
After the Lions 2-0 start to the season, tough losses to Scio and Regis had them looking for something to snap their two-game skid before closing out their season next week at Central Linn. Finding that against the youthful Wolverines, scoring the next 44 points to stun Santiam, putting them in a 44-8 deficit late in the third quarter.
“After that (first Santiam) touchdown, I went over there with everyone and said ‘we got to keep our heads up, this isn’t over. Let’s go. We can come back and punch them in the mouth’. And that’s what I think we did, we went out there and gave it our all,” said the Lions Elijah Stelly.
Stelly scored three times in the contest, Zach Wusstig added another on the ground and on a punt return. Trevor Withee had a passing touchdown, to Stelly, and another on the ground. Building some momentum for the Cobras next Friday, looking to close out the season on a high-note sitting at 3-2 on the year.
“We just got to go out there with the same tempo as this game. We gotta keep rolling and give it all we have. Effort, and everyone needs to pick each other up. All around effort,” Stelly said.
But the Senior duo for the Wolverines weren’t done yet. Lanham broke a big gain, only a cramp had halted the Senior running back from finishing the play with a score. On the next play however, his Senior teammate in Mitchell finished the job to get Santiam onto the board one last time.
“It’s great. When you have a brotherhood like that and they all work together, there’s never a dull moment,” Mitchell said.
“I’ve been playing with Alex since probably like fifth-grade, fourth-grade. It was amazing you know,” said Lanham. “One of the greatest moments of football I’ve had, just running down the field.”
It was a blessing Lanham said to even have this season. He had dreams of not having a season and how much that would hurt him, but admits that they got lucky. They were able to have four games, something Lanham was very happy about as he got to share it with his friend and help mold the younger players.
“It’s great. It’s great being looked up to, like being a leader of a team and all of these little guys look up to you every day, they want to be like you one day. It’s great,” Lanham said.
Santiam wrapped up the season Thursday, going 1-3 on the year.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald