It had been 61 years since Douglas County hosted a high school football state championship game.
Saturday, Roseburg High School’s Finlay Field hosted a pair of humdingers, and both games went off without a hitch.
The Oregon School Activities Association chose Finlay for a the Class 3A and 5A championship games due it being a central location for all four squads. The longest road trip for either team was roughly 90 minutes, as opposed to the two- to three-hour drive to get to the previously scheduled venues in Hillsboro.
Finlay Field, with a seating capacity of close to 4,000, was nearly half full as fans reveled in the Class 3A championship, which saw Santiam Christian beat Hidden Valley 41-34 in the early game. By the time Thurston and Crater kicked off the nightcap, there was barely a cold metal seat to be claimed.
“We had some great crowds, a great atmosphere,” Roseburg Athletic Director Russ Bolin said. “The first game was a fantastic game. This (5A championship) was a fantastic game. The crowds were great. We didn’t have any problems at all. It was a pretty smooth day.”
The OSAA had originally scheduled the classes 5A-1A championship games for Hillsboro Stadium and Liberty High School. Because three qualifiers came from east of the Columbia River Gorge, the governing body opted for a tripleheader at Hermiston’s Kennison Field for the Class 4A, 2A and 1A title games.
The Class 5A title game pitted Thurston of Springfield against Crater of Central Point. In 3A, Santiam Christian of Adair Village — just north of Corvallis on Highway 99 — against Hidden Valley of Murphy, just southwest of Grants Pass.
Roseburg made perfect sense.
Concerns about parking bubbled up for a short period due to the 3A game running long, but all in all, a strong collective effort from various RHS staff helped Saturday’s doubleheader go off with minimal hitches.
“We really owe it to all the people who stepped up here,” Bolin said. “All the football coaches and our other coaches on staff who stepped up on a Thanksgiving weekend to come out and help put this on, and our ticket ladies. The people in concessions.
“People just willing to help.”
The last time Douglas County hosted an OSAA state football championship game was in 1958, when Yoncalla played host to Alsea in the Class B finale, which Alsea won 60-7.
Bill Gray Stadium (Legion Field) had hosted a handful of baseball championships over the years, but Saturday was the first time the Roseburg had taken on a venture like this. Based on the logistical smoothness of Saturday, it likely won’t be the last.
“We had people who were willing to step up, and that’s the reason we were able to put this on,” Bolin said. “I’m glad we were able to do it for the teams involved.”