By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.– The running game for the Santiam Wolverines were a vocal point this past season as the boys from the canyon, helping Santiam to a 6-3 record and a first-round appearance in the 2A postseason under then first-year Head Coach Josh Ruby.
Practicing in the mid-August heat Tuesday afternoon with just their helmets, the Wolverines were picking up where they left off with the same running approach as they did a year prior despite going nine-man. 2A opt-ing to go nine-man as the league loses Salem Academy and Kennedy, the two squads chose to play up to 3A this year and play 11-man Football.
But nonetheless Santiam returns the two-headed monster known as the Clark-Stafford Effect. Clark has the shifty play ability while Stafford had the bruising fullback strength that made things interesting if things were clicking on offense.
And a second year in Ruby’s system will only give them another opportunity to get better and to do more on the gridiron this Fall.
“It was good. (Clark’s) small, he’s shifty and he can get around stuff. As soon as he breaks to the outside he’s gone,” Stafford describes their running game. “I could’ve done better, alright as a junior. But there’s always time to get better. It’ll be good because our first hardest games are Knappa and St. Paul, they’re the two hardest teams and to start off the bat we need to be ready.”
The Loggers went 7-2 on the year last year before falling to Jefferson in the first round of the 2A playoffs. The Wolverines Week 2 game with the Buckaroos will be the first time the two teams matched up since the 2A State Semifinals where Santiam edged St. Paul 23-22 off of a Jordan Lanham Field Goal at the buzzer. The Bucks however, have gone to two 1A State Finals and another State Semi-Final since that game in Cottage Grove and will still present a challenge.
Going to work Tuesday, the little things will be the main focus. Footwork, timing, etc. as Santiam prepares for the start of the season. Also bringing up the new faces up to speed in places such as the offensive line where the Wolverines lost three of their five starters to graduation. Logan Hays and Sean Brewster are returning up front and will be looked to anchor the line to help protect Sam Schroeder, Clark, Stafford and who else may be in their backfield this season.
“The guys on the line now, they saw what we were doing last year. It really set what we wanted to do so they know what to do coming into this year,” Hays said. “It’ll be the biggest two weeks of our season because we start off with Knappa, we have to get everything set before we go up there.”
“If we can show them (how to do it), that’s just another body that knows what they’re doing if someone goes down or if one of us gets hurt so that they can go in and fill that spot and do the same thing as us, which is nice,” adds Stafford.
They’ll get some live action before their season opener against Knappa though as the squad heads to Monroe to play in the Monroe jamboree on August 26.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald