Three years ago, Gavin Acrey was a promising freshman for the Camas Valley football team at the Class 1A eight-man level.
Fast forward to today — Acrey will play his final high school football game as a member of the second-seeded Crater Comets (11-1), who take on No. 1 Thurston of Springfield (12-0) in the 5A state final at Roseburg’s Finlay Field.
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
No. 2 Santiam Christian (12-0) and No. 1 Hidden Valley (12-0) square off in the 3A title contest at noon at Finlay Field.
Crater, playing in its first state championship game in football, gets a rematch with Midwestern League rival Thurston, the defending state champion. The Colts handed the Comets their lone loss of the season in Week 3, winning 31-20 in Central Point.
“We all want revenge. We just have to play our game and do what we do,” Acrey said following Crater’s 30-24 semifinal win over West Albany last Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
Randy Waite, a former assistant coach at Roseburg, is the head coach of the Comets. Beau Canfield, another ex-assistant at RHS, is on the staff.
“They have gotten a lot better better, but so have we,” Waite said. “Our kids have been looking forward to that, hoping we’d get another shot at them. I know they’ll be ready for us. It will be a good game.”
Both teams have been filling up the scoreboard all season. Thurston, which has won 16 straight games dating back to last year, averages 49.8 points and Crater 48.3 a game.
Acrey, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior running back/defensive back, was selected the offensive player of the year in Special District 2 South. He’s rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
Acrey had a big game against West Albany, gaining 179 yards on 22 carries. He scored two touchdowns, including a 77-yard jaunt in the first quarter.
Thurston’s defensive game plan surely will include containing Acrey, who ran for 245 yards and two TDs in the first meeting between the two clubs.
“I like his competitiveness,” Waite told the Medford Mail Tribune. “He doesn’t back down from many challenges. He’s a good kid through and through, and he’s a true competitor.”
Acrey was a second-team all-league running back and defensive end under Eli Wolfe at C.V. in his first high school season in 2016. The Hornets finished 7-3 overall, losing to Lowell 56-22 at home in the first round of the state playoffs.
Acrey lived in Camas Valley that year with his uncle and aunt (Wayne and Marci Gallagher), then moved to the Medford area where both of his parents (Tim and Laura) reside.
“I was super blessed to have coached Gavin one year,” Wolfe said. “He comes from good people and is a super kid, and was well beyond his years (as a player). I didn’t know what to expect of him at the start of that season, but it didn’t take long to realize he could handle this level of football.
“He’s a ferocious competitor and has a motor that doesn’t stop. I’m glad he has the opportunity to play for a state championship.”
Thurston is led by senior quarterback Cade Crist, the offensive player of the year in SD2N, and senior linebacker Santino Stranieri, the defensive player of the year.
The top two seeds in the 16-team bracket are still standing as the Eagles of Adair Village and Mustangs of Murphy collide.
Hidden Valley is the highest-scoring team in 3A, averaging 48.7 points. The Mustangs dropped down from 4A last year and will move back up next year.
H.V. features several offensive weapons. Among them are junior quarterback Sam Vidlak (2,891 yards passing, 41 TDs), junior receivers Jeremiah Noga (58 catches, 1,061 yards, 14 TDs) and Lawrence Matusik (49 receptions, 902 yards, 11 TDs) and junior tailback Tobias Powers (1,595 yards rushing, 17 TDs).
Santiam Christian, which has finished with 22 straight winning seasons, averages 47.2 points. Sophomore quarterback Ely Kennel (1,813 yards passing, 27 TDs) and junior running back Marcus Fullbright (1,542 yards rushing, 28 TDs) are the top playmakers for S.C.