Kennedy Wins League In Comeback Fashion Over Santiam Christian

By Jeremy McDonald

MOUNT ANGEL, Ore.–  On the final week of the regular season, on the eve of Halloween practically, we were treated with one of those great matches that lived up to the billing when it came around on the schedule.

And the Week 9 matchup of Kennedy, the 2A juggernaut making the move up, and the established 3A juggernaut in Santiam Christian did all it was supposed to and more as the two 8-0 squads went toe-to-toe with one another.  Coming down to the final minute, final play even, for a winner to be decided in the 3A Special District 2 conference with the Trojans taking it 24-20 in the process as they enter the postseason 9-0 on the year.

What’s interesting was that this game looked like it may be out-of-reach early thanks to a strong second quarter in the fast moving contest.  Kennedy led 17-0 by halftime, all 17 points coming in the second half off a field goal and two Elijah Traeger touchdown passes.  Seemingly handing the Trojans momentum going into the second half.  That was, until the Eagles started to figure it out in the second half.

Then the game for the host Kennedy squad turned into a Halloween nightmare of sorts as Santiam Christian turned momentum into their favor.  

Jayden Christy broke the shutout in the final minute of the third quarter.Jared Mehlschau found Gavin Van Volkinburg midway through the fourth to pull the Eagles back to within four which was followed by a defensive stop and another Christy score with 1:12 left in the game that put Santiam Christian ahead 20-17;

“Our defense was really strong in the first, but we let up in the second half, we gave up too many points and too many mistakes.  We just told ourselves that we can’t, we got to battle back and we got it together and finished it off,” Owen Bruner said.

Kennedy and Santiam Christian each put each other up to the test Friday night in what could be a 3A State Semi-Final or State Final match-up this Fall (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

The air was sucked out of the Kennedy side of the field as the Eagles side were going crazy.  The craziness continued as the Trojans took over and you started feeling the tension from the Kennedy side.  

If anything, this will be a preview for if these two teams meet again in the postseason as they took over on their twenty with a minute left.

But the Kennedy Machine, just as well-oiled and maintained as the Santiam Christian machine, had confidence as they literally pulled a trick out of the bag.  A reverse pass involving Ethan Kleinschmit, who connected with a wide-open Luke Beyer for 80-yards and the go-ahead score with 45 seconds left in the game.  It looked like they were playing long-toss almost in the baseball outfield with how the pass-and-catch went.

And all-of-a-sudden the energy came back to the Kennedy side as if they woke up from that Halloween nightmare they were having.

“We had nothing better to do than try it and pull a big trick play to get a big play because there was a minute left, it was the right call obviously,” smiled Kleinschmit.  “It was huge.  It was a good learning experience for us to fight back for something.  That was huge, we struggle on offense the whole time.  We had to stay strong eventually.”

On the first play back on defense, Bruner picked up his second interception of the game to help seal the four-point victory and seal the Trojans 9-0 season.  All while winning their first 3A League Championship, a first in school history.

“It’s good to make a statement like that.  We’re a 2A team that wanted to play 3A this year because of 11-man and it just proves to everyone, no matter how small you are or how small your school is, you can play with everyone if you play hard,” Bruner said.  

Now it’s onto the playoffs.  Working on their offense was a common thing that Kleinschmit and Bruner pointed towards and cleaning up the little mistakes as they await their first 3A Playoff opposition in the first weekend of November.

Photos By Jeremy McDonald


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