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Santiam leaves field in the third without giving an explanation; Hood-to-Little pass play only touchdown of the game

LON AUSTIN  - Brody Little plows forward with the ball against Santiam March 5 in Culver. Little caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Hood for the lone touchdown of an 8-0 Culver win. In what was certainly one of the strangest games of an already unusual prep football season, the Culver Bulldogs defeated the Santiam Wolverines 8-0 Friday night in the opening game of the Class 2A Special District 2 football season.

The most odd part of the game? Santiam decided to leave during the third quarter, without providing a reason.

"I thought that on both sides of the ball we played pretty well," said Culver head coach Shea Little. "I thought the kids did an excellent job of stepping up and performing well versus a pretty tough team."

Santiam received the opening kickoff and drove straight down the field, advancing to the Culver 25 yard-line before the Culver defense stiffened, stopping Santiam on downs. Neither team was able to move the ball well the remainder of the quarter and the two teams went into the second quarter both scoreless.

Midway through the quarter, the lead official came to the Culver bench and said that Santiam's coaching staff was saying that some Culver players were not keeping their masks up.

Little immediately called time out.

"I said, 'Hey, if I see or hear of any of you not having your masks up between plays or during plays, I'm pulling you,'" Little said. "I nipped it in the bud."

Culver had the ball on their own 32-yard line to open the quarter, and immediately went on a long drive. On third and goal from the eight-yard line, Culver quarterback Anthony Hood dropped back to pass and hit tight end Brody Little for a touchdown. Holder Logan Macy bobbled the snap on the extra point attempt, then picked up the ball and scrambled around the right end for a two-point conversion. It would turn out to be all the points the Bulldogs would need.

The Culver defense shut Santiam down the remainder of the first half.

Prior to the start of the second half, Little checked with the officials to see if there had been any additional problems with masks.

"I said, hey, are we good?" he said. "Things are good, just a little bit of chipping, but not bad." Little reported the referees as replying.

Coach Little had announced prior to the game that he planned on playing his younger players in the second half, even if that meant losing the game.

So, Little put his substitutes in on the kickoff return to start the second half, and one of the substitutes was injured on the play. Culver's second string was unable to move the ball and the team was forced to punt. As they did at the start of the first half, Santiam was driving down the field when Little put his starting defense back in the game. The Wolverines drove to the Culver 30 yard line, before the drive stalled.

Then, on fourth and 11, Santiam head coach Carl Rupp began yelling at the officials, sent his team to the end zone, and walked off the field, abruptly ending the game.

"There was no communication," Little said. "They just walked off and went to the end zone. I don't know what the deal was and I'm still trying to figure that out. I've never, in 23 years of coaching high school football, had that happen, so, it was strange and I'm sure that we will hear about it."

Little added that his second string players were very disappointed.

"We only saw our first group basically and we were really frustrated that with a short season, Santiam walked off the field because that took away a huge opportunity for all our young kids to play. I've made it clear to the people that we play that's our philosophy this season, that we will go after it the first half but we want our young kids to get time because they're going to turn around and be playing next year. So, I want to honor our seniors and I want to honor our young kids. We were just heartbroken that our young kids couldn't get out there and have a chance to play. To see their faces, obviously they were fired up and a little bit upset, but at the same time you could just see the disappointment in the kids eyes."

Little added that he has already talked to next week's opponent, Jefferson, to make sure that they understand what Culver is trying to do.

"I said, hey, if you have any issues, please, please contact me and let me know and we will accommodate you in any way, we just want to get kids some game time," he said.

Little added that he doesn't know if masks were the issue that caused Santiam to stop playing or not.

"I don't really know," he said. "I know they've been a top team. Two years ago they beat us 50-0. Last year the score was close. We are pretty physical up front this year and the kids were getting after it, so I don't know if it was that. I just don't know. Our whole community is frustrated. I've got coaches, parents, administration frustrated with the whole situation. It's just another opportunity taken away from the kids."

Little has since attempted to communicate with the Santiam athletic director and has sent an email to the OSAA, and he expects to eventually get an explanation.

By Tuesday, after speaking with OSAA officials, Little said "We don't feel it was a mask issue on our end," but added that they were "not going to make any statements about the past."

"We want to stay positive and professional. We are looking forward to playing Jefferson High this Friday."

The game was the lone home game for Culver this season as the remainder of the league will not travel across the mountains due to COVID. The Jefferson game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Jefferson defeated Gervais 28-18 in their opening game.

Culver 8, Santiam 0

Santiam 0 0 0 – 0

Culver 0 8 0 – 8

C – Anthony Hood, 8-yard pass to Brody Little, Logan Macy run.

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