ADAIR VILLAGE — Matt Bain isn’t afraid to throw out a state championship as a goal for his team.
Santiam Christian’s football coach believes his team has the potential to accomplish it, despite having to replace nearly all of its key skill position players from 2013.
Bain says it all depends on how well his players come together.
“It’s within reach. But I would say there’s going to six or seven teams in the state where it’s within reach for any of those teams,” Bain said. “But who separates themselves and steps up and takes it? It doesn’t fall in your lap.”
The Eagles, who open their schedule Friday at home against former league rival Harrisburg, will have a new quarterback in junior Daniel Hendrix after Keaton Corrado transferred to West Albany.
Hendrix is all smiles after getting cleared to play earlier this summer. He missed nearly two seasons after doctors became worried about his heart.
“It’s just been a huge sigh of relief for my family and everybody involved, and just being on the football field is an added bonus,” Hendrix said. “Every time I step out here it feels like a huge blessing. Watching from the sideline for two years was really tough.”
Hendrix says he’s still knocking off the rust, though Bain likes what he’s seeing so far.
“The more Daniel comes along, the more he owns it, which is good,” the coach said. “He’s a smart kid and a good, hard worker so he’ll be just fine. It’s a new position. That’s the hurdle, it’s a lot of new stuff.”
Hendrix watched the 2013 season from the sidelines and he said the state quarterfinal playoff loss to eventual state runner-up Nyssa didn’t sit well with him and his teammates.
So he doesn’t mind the pressure of shooting for a state title.
“I think we all have the confidence we can take it that far,” Hendrix said. “We’re obviously going to take it one week at a time. But we all believe we have the ability and the athletes and the heart to get there. We’re all ready for that challenge.”
The offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by senior Oren Hills, whom Bain believes could be one of the best linemen in the state.
“When people are blocking him they’re not going to move him,” Bain said of the 5-foot-9, 270-pound Hills, an all-state wrestler last winter.
“He’s more of a (lead) by example guy. He works. He goes through injury. He’s a rock. He’s a guy who is steady and goes. You love having a guy like that on the team.”
Fellow senior Adam Wiens is a returning starter on the offensive line and will also be a starter on defense.
The offense returns its center and two guards, while the defense returns its two tackles in Hills and Wiens, who have played together for several years.
“He works hard and he’s quick just like me,” Hills said. “We both get in the backfield and blow up plays. We look at each other and we know we’ve got each other’s back because we’re always there.”
Senior Zach Schaffner, and juniors Chance Ottinger and Brayden Stutzman will be new starters on the lines.
Fourteen graduated seniors off last year’s team decimated the skill position depth. But the Eagles have players to fill the gaps.
Seniors Justin Aldrich, Tanner Butler, Darren Crosby, Austin Howell and Ty Villers; juniors Brady Patterson and Tanner Macal; and sophomores Mason McLain and Parker Stutzman are collectively filling in the spots at running back and receiver.
“We’ve got a lot of guys stepping up in those skill positions,” Bain said. “I think they’re all great athletes. It’s just finding out how they fit. That will get going and we get into the season here.”
This fall, Santiam Christian makes the move to the 3A West Valley League, which also includes Amity, Dayton, Horizon Christian (of Tualatin), Sheridan, Taft (Lincoln City), Westside Christian (Tigard) and Willamina. All but Westside Christian play football.
SC was in the West Valley before joining what was the newly formed PacWest Conference in 2006.