In the quarterfinals of the Class 5A boys basketball tournament last March, Silverton was locked in a tight struggle with Crescent Valley.
The Raiders led throughout, but the Foxes kept answering. With 2:40 left, point guard Jordan McCarty uncorked a blistering no-look cross-court pass to a wide-open Austin Ratliff cutting to the hoop. He laid it off the glass to tie the game 45-45. Moments later the Foxes took their first lead and went on to win 49-47 on their way to a runner-up finish in the tournament.
After the C.V. game I was talking with then-Foxes coach Jamie McCarty, Jordan’s father, and I brought up the pass. He just smiled and said something like “they’ve been doing that since the fifth grade.”
Long-time buddies and teammates McCarty and Ratliff and a boatload of other Silverton athletes led the school’s athletic program to perhaps its most successful season in 2021-22. QB McCarty and DB-WR Ratliff helped the Foxes claim the 5A football title with a 26-20 win vs. Thurston at Hillsboro Stadium. In the winter, as noted, the Foxes finished second in 5A hoops, falling in the title match to perennial power Wilsonville. In the spring Ratliff was a sprinter and McCarty a relay participant as the Foxes claimed the team title at the 5A track and field meet at Hayward Field in Eugene. Girls golf took second at state, and there were strong showings by other teams: boys soccer, volleyball, girls basketball and softball all made the state quarterfinals.
Silverton finished fourth in the OSAA Cup, the annual competition that also credits schools for academics and sportsmanship.
Ratliff and McCarty moved on to the Air Force Academy prep school, with hopes of eventually playing football for the Falcons. Things didn’t work out. Both athletes have returned to Oregon, with Ratliff walking on at Oregon State and McCarty enrolling at Western Oregon. Both will be eligible to play in the fall at their new schools, with Ratliff studying finance and McCarty a business major.
“Throughout my time [there] I realized that the Academy wasn’t the path I wanted to go down, and me and my family came to the decision of looking for a new home,” McCarty told Our Town.
Ratliff offered similar thoughts.
“The deciding factor was that I wanted to play football at the highest level possible and do it in my home state,” he said. “Additionally, the lifestyle at Air Force was not for me, and I am excited for a new start.”
The decisions could be viewed by some as admissions of failure. As in “hot-shot athletes from a small pond can’t compete with the big boys and come back home.”
But I don’t think that that is what is happening here. And to me, it misses a key point about sports – and life.
Sometimes, knowing where you need to be is one of the most valuable bits of knowledge. Yes, it takes moxie to stick with something, especially when it isn’t working that well. But it also takes guts to pull up stakes and try again somewhere else. It’s also worth noting that the service academy structure is not for everybody.
So, speaking selfishly, I’m pleased that Ratliff and McCarty are back in Oregon, giving us the opportunity to watch them play. Speaking more broadly I think there are lessons here for all of us. McCarty and Ratliff will succeed in the classroom. As well as succeed in life.