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COTTAGE GROVE — Santiam Christian senior running back Jeff Hendrix rushed for 198 yards and scored five touchdowns and the Eagles scored 28 unanswered points to start the second half en route to a 56-36 win over Cascade Christian in the Class 3A state semifinals at Cottage Grove High on Saturday night.
Hendrix, who ran in scores of 77, 30, 14 and 12 yards and caught a 25-yard scoring strike from quarterback Grant Schroeder, helped Santiam Christian advance to the 3A title game, where it will face Dayton on Saturday.
Dayton beat Rainer 52-20 in the other semifinal.
Challenger quarterback Daniel Scottow connected with running back Brandon Williams on a 6-yard TD pass with 21 seconds left in the second quarter, capping a mesmerizing 15-play, 80-yard drive. The score left Cascade Christian down just seven, trailing 21-14 at halftime.
But the Eagles (12-1) dominated the third quarter, holding the Challengers (10-3) scoreless and unleashing its potent offense — an attack that features an elusive signal caller in Schroeder, a dangerous arsenal of receivers and a gashing ground game.
"I felt like our team came out flat for the first half and at halftime we rallied the troops and came out on fire," said Hendrix, who has signed to play baseball at Oregon State University.
Cascade Christian tacked on three fourth-quarter touchdowns, but by then it was too late.
"We knew we had to hold onto the ball and capitalize on any opportunity that we had," Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman said. "We didn't capitalize on the few opportunities we had and they are a great team. If you don't take advantage of everything, you won't beat them."
Williams finished with four touchdowns. The junior carried the ball 26 times for 222 yards and three scores (10, 3 and 1-yard scores), and had three catches for 23 yards. One of his most important runs was a 21-yard sprint on fourth-and-five late in the first half, which led to his TD reception.
"We just knew we had to do our best and I knew I couldn't let my team down," Williams said. "So my blockers did an amazing job, they gave me holes (and) creases for us to go through and we just pounded away at it."
Senior defensive back Dominick Combs broke up a deep pass toward the end zone early in the second quarter and recovered a fumble by Schroeder with just seconds left in the period. He had five tackles and Levi Girardot recorded six.
Girardot ran for 42 yards on 11 carries and Josh Brite had 37 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
Scottow, a junior, completed 7 of 14 attempts for 107 yards and two touchdowns — he found Eric Morse for a nine-yard scoring pass with eight seconds left in the contest.
The Challengers outdid the Eagles in several important statistical categories, finishing with more total yards (500 to 494), rushing yards (393 to 307) and first downs (21 to 17). Cascade Christian had the ball much longer (34 minutes, 26 seconds to Santiam Christian's 13 minutes, 34 seconds), but the Eagles made the most of their time: three of their scoring drives took but one play and lasted 32 seconds or less, and a fourth was two plays and removed just 32 seconds from the scoreboard.
Santiam Christian beat Cascade Christian 50-7 during the regular season. Last season, the Eagles defeated the Challengers 42-23 in the state semifinals.
"They know how to spread you out and pass the ball and then they are dangerous with the run too," Williams said.
After the game, Gettman rounded up his seniors and gave them a speech of gratitude.
"These seniors showed courage, no fear, to come from one-and-two to reeling off nine straight wins and getting to the semifinals," Gettman said. "It shows the character of the kids that we get to work with. It's a blessing. I love working with them."
Santiam Christian 56 , Cascade Christian 36
At Cottage Grove
Cascade Christian 0 14 0 22 —36
Santiam Christian 8 13 21 14 —56
SC — Hendrix 77 run (Schaffner run)
CC — Williams 1 run (Parker kick)
SC — Hendrix 25 pass from Schroeder (run failed)
SC — Alire 16 run (Hendrix kick)
CC — Williams 6 pass from Scottow (Parker kick)
SC — Hendrix 30 run (Hendrix kick)
SC — Hendrix 12 run (Hendrix kick)
SC — Schaffner 1 run (Hendrix kick)
SC — Pelley 40 pass from Schroeder (Hendrix kick)
CC — Williams 3 run (kick failed)
SC — Hendrix 14 run (Hendrix kick)
CC — Williams 10 run (Hamasu run)
CC — Morse 9 pass from Scottow (Scottow run)
First Downs 21 17
Rushes-Yards 61-393 29-307
Passing Yards 107 187
Comp-Att-Int 7-15-1 8-15-0
Total Yards 500 494
Punts 3-39.7 0-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-34 3-15
Cascade Christian — B. Williams 26-216, Girardot 11-42, Brite 11-36, Scottow 5-36, Combs 2-30, Sha 4-29, R. Williams 2-4.
Santiam Christian — Hendrix 7-198, Alire 4-53, Schroeder 7-42, Schaffner 6-9, Burman 1-9, Team 1-(minus 1), Webb 1-(minus 1), Callis 2-(minus 2).
Cascade Christian — Scottow 7-14-1 102, Girardot 0-1-0 0.
Santiam Christian — Schroeder 8-15-0 187.
Cascade Christian — B. Williams 3-23, R. Williams 2-35, Sha 1-40, Morse 1-9.
Santiam Christian — Pelley 3-69, Hendrix 2-49, Hovelsrud 2-32, Schaffner 1-37.
Reach sports reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com