STILLWATER — By seed, Stillwater is the favorite.
But . . .
“We know what we’re up against Friday,” Stillwater football senior Brian McNeil said at Wednesday’s practice.
In this year’s Section II Class C championship game, the undefeated Warriors are looking to win their program’s first-ever area title. Cambridge/Salem, their opponent, seems to pretty much win one of these things every year.
“So you have to make sure you’re instilling in your kids confidence in the game plan by keeping things simple,” Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey said. “When teams play Cambridge, they want to overthink, overcoach and draw things up that have never been drawn up before.”
Ahead of 7 p.m. Friday’s matchup against Cambridge/Salem (No. 2, 8-1) at Lansingburgh, Stillwater (No. 1, 9-0) has put together its undefeated season through a commitment to playing to its strengths. The Warriors’ offensive line is arguably the best in Section II small-school football, and senior quarterback James Galarneau and senior running back Mason Seymour have rushed for one touchdown after another this season to lead an offense averaging 39.4 points per game.
Defensively, Stillwater relies on its size and quickness to limit opponents, with McNeil — a middle linebacker — leading the way for a group that has allowed 10.8 points per game.
“Their strength,” Godfrey said, “is in their program.”
While Stillwater is looking to win its first area championship, Cambridge/Salem — when including all the years Cambridge played as a solo entity — has won 17 Section II crowns. That figure doesn’t include a championship Salem won on its own. Cambridge/Salem won last year’s Section II Class C championship, and the program won the Class D state title in each of the prior two years.
“They’re a great team,” McNeil said.
“And the reason they’re so good is because they do what they want to do,” Galarneau said. “We have to stick to what we do.”
Stillwater has built toward this year’s championship game since Godfrey took control of the program prior to the 2016 season. The Warriors’ deep senior class includes several players that have started since they were freshmen, such as McNeil who has been a two-way starter throughout Godfrey’s tenure.
“These guys, when they were freshmen, we knew we had a special group coming through and guys we could build around for the next few years,” said Godfrey, whose program lost in the 2017 area championship game to Holy Trinity. “But these kids have exceeded our expectations.”
“It feels like yesterday we were all freshmen, but there’s been a lot of hard work in these four years,” Galarneau said. “There’s a lot that’s gone into this, and, now, as seniors, we know there’s no tomorrow.