North Marion to host Stayton in first round
The first time the North Marion and the Stayton football teams played against each other, it took a 20-point rally in the second half for the Huskies to pull out the victory — the first of six wins in the team's historic run to the state playoffs this year.
As fortune would have it, the two former league rivals will open the state playoffs as well, when 4-seed North Marion (6-2, 5-0 Special District 2) hosts the 13-seed Stayton (6-2, 4-1 Special District 3) at Husky Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. This time, North Marion head coach Calvin Griggs is hoping it won't take one of the team's signature second-half rallies to pull out the victory in the rematch.
"We have to come out with the fire like it's the fourth quarter so we can continue doing what we're doing," Griggs said. "I told the kids, when it comes playoffs, it's a whole different ballgame. We can't afford to come out the first half barely hanging in there."
Since that first game, the Huskies have put together one of the most memorable seasons in program history, going 5-0 in league play to claim the team's first outright league title in 60 years. In that span of games, the team won a 17-14 overtime contest against Crook County and needed fourth-quarter scores to beat Gladstone and The Dalles.
Despite being a top-five team in the state, North Marion lacks the resume of big wins that often come with state championship contenders. The Huskies are the only team in the OSAA top five with two losses, and the team's biggest win was by 28 points. Griggs knows his team looks beatable from the outside, and he's expecting the team to get overlooked in the state championship conversation.
"On paper, we're not expected to win. We're outsized. We're outmanned. You name it, across the board, on paper people don't count us in," he said. "But when we step on the field, it's two different things watching us and playing against us."
Many of the Huskies' close games this season have been due to the quality of the opponents the team has faced. North Marion has the top RPI rank among 4A teams. The team's two losses this season have come against No. 7 Henley (7-1) and No. 9 Cascade (7-1). North Marion also plays in the lone conference that sent four teams to the state playoffs.
"You've got to credit our league," Griggs said. "The schools that we play — I feel that we have the top conference in the league."
The Huskies will have a tough opponent on their hands Friday. Stayton has the best win percentage of any of the eight road teams opening the 4A playoffs. Since their season-opening loss to North Marion, Stayton has won six of its past seven games. The only blemish in that time was a 47-39 loss to the league champion Cascade Cougars.
But with the first home state playoff game in memory, Griggs is counting on his players coming out and delivering a memorable show to the North Marion community and keep the season alive for as long as possible.
"Everybody in the community is supportive and excited," Griggs said. "I told the kids you have the opportunity to do something very special that hasn't been done in a long time. It's what you do with that opportunity that's going to define who you are and who we are."
No. 4 North Marion vs. No. 13 Stayton
When: Friday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m.
Where: Husky Stadium
The North Marion and Stayton football teams have been evenly matched over the past decade, splitting their series 3-3 heading into Friday's state playoff opener.
2019: North Marion 37, Stayton 27
2018: North Marion 12, Stayton 6
2017: Stayton 19, North Marion 7
2016: North Marion 13, Stayton 6
2015: Stayton 21, North Marion 9
2014: Stayton 27, North Marion 23
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