Magical season – Foxes have a new trophy for the case

December 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

James Day

Somehow you get the feeling that folks in Silverton will be talking about the final play of the 2021 Class 5A football title game for a long time. 

Here is the setup: The Foxes were clinging to a 26-20 lead against Thurston and were facing 4th and 17 at the Colts’ 26 with 12 seconds left. No timeouts left. 

Let’s let coach Josh Craig tell the story:

“That last play was a tough spot. You could run it, but given how we weren’t having much success on the ground, a run play was likely to chew up the same (amount of time) as a pass play since it was 4th down. So the idea was to give Jordan max protection (TE stayed in and both RBs stayed in to pass block) so Jordy could throw it up to Van or Austin. If it was incomplete, it would be a turnover on downs and they’ve have to drive the length of the field with a few seconds left. An interception would actually be a good thing, because they’d have to drive the ball even further to score. But fortunately Jordan threw a great ball and Van did what he’s done all season, and made a great play to seal up the win.”

For the record, Van Fessler outfought the Colts’ Darien Witham for the pass from Jordan McCarty and the 21-yard gain resulted in a first down at the 5. Once the chains were reset the final seconds ticked off and the Foxes were state champions for the first time since 1991.

The huddle where Silverton set up its final play in the Class 5A championship game versus Thurston. Head coach Josh Craig is at left, with ball cap, along with assistant Mike Fessler (headset), QB Jordan McCarty (center), wide receiver Vandon Fessler (10) and center Elijah Roper (71).

“I have never finished a season with so much energy,” said Craig, who is 41-11 overall and 8-3 in the playoffs in five years as head coach. 

“These guys are such an amazing group to be around that if we could, I’d still have us out at practice doing our thing. I enjoyed every day with these guys and will never forget their heart, positive attitudes, and toughness. They are the best team in the state and deserved that win, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. 

“I have to give a shout out to all the coaches as well. Coach [Eric] Anderson, Coach [Mike] Fessler, Coach [John] Howard, Coach [John] Horner, and Coach Matt [Craig], as well as all our JV and freshman coaches. They had an amazing season as a staff. As a program we had a combined record of 25-2-1, which is pretty amazing.”

The Foxes, 12-1, wound up No. 7 in the final MaxPreps all-Oregon football rankings, trailing 6A schools Central Catholic, Tualatin, Jesuit, West Linn and Lake Oswego and 4A champion Marshfield. Thurston was No. 12 and West Albany was 23rd. 

The Foxes’ lone loss was at Tualatin, which advanced to the 6A title game before falling to Central Catholic.

For Kennedy, championship weekend was a matter of running into the wrong running back on the wrong day. Gunner Yates of Coquille rushed for 388 yards and 5 touchdowns to lift the Red Devils past Kennedy in the Class 2A title game on Nov. 27 in Cottage Grove.

“Yates is a good football player,” said Trojan coach Joe Panuke. “He ran hard for 4 quarters.  I thought we tackled him well for most of the game. There was just a handful of times that we couldn’t quite wrap him up and with his speed it’s to the house.”

Kennedy finished 11-2, with its lone losses to Coquille and Heppner. Coquille edged Heppner 8-6 in one semifinal, while Kennedy was taking out Lakeview 21-0 in the other semi. Kennedy has advanced to the 2A final 4 times since 2015, taking the 2018 crown with a win versus Santiam.

“We are very proud of this team and how hard they worked all year long,” Panuke said. “We had a lot of positions to fill from last year’s team and these guys stepped up and did a fantastic job. The thing I will remember most about this team is how everyone contributed. “We didn’t have one special player that went out and won games for us. We were a complete team with lots of guys that could make plays.”

Kennedy earned 8 slots on the all-state 2A team. Matt Hopkins was offensive lineman of the year and QB-DB Riley Cantu was a first-team pick on both offense and defense. Also on the first team were wide receivers Owen Bruner and Luke Beyer, tight end Brett Boen, place-kicker Charlie Beyer and defensive lineman Briggs Snell.

Snell (offense) and Hopkins (defense) were second-team picks on the line. Isaac Berning was a second-team linebacker and Elijah Traeger earner honorable mention at DB.

Panuke is 68-21 in his eight years as head coach and 15-6 in the playoffs.

 

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