SPRINGFIELD — The hardest thing for Thurston — or any defending state football champion — to do at the dawn of the next season is to keep the dream of a repeat title in its proper place.
Success can be infectious that way. it can keep a team from getting back to the elusive trick of filling the inevitable holes and learning what it really takes to face a new season.
The Colts didn’t learn a darn thing Friday night in in their opener against Churchill — the team that has nearly replaced Springfield as Thurston’s biggest rival.
Thurston landed on the poor Lancers 55-0 in a game that went the last 16 minutes with a running clock. The Colts moved the ball at will and only rarely got as much as a good workout.
So for all the anticipation after the three epic games the two Lane County giants had last year, it escaped attention that while the Colts are starting afresh this year, the Lancers are starting over.
Thurston was merciful. The Colts’ starters were on the sidelines for the whole second half, and by the end of the game Thurston had its only freshman in the game.
The Colts scored the first three times they got the ball in the first quarter: On the fourth play of the game, when quarterback Cade Crist found a wide-open Santino Stranieri over the middle for a 40-yard score; on their sixth snap, when Calvin Royce took a simple sweep 50 yards; and on the last play of the first quarter, when Engine No. 36 — senior tailback Wes Kommer — barreled in from 7 yards.
Kommer got two more touchdowns in the second quarter for a 35-0 halftime lead, then the bench took over. Running back Varney Doreen barreled in from short yardage twice in the third quarter; after the second touchdown took the score past the magic 45-point mark with 4:11 left, the clock went on running time.
The numbers were horribly lopsided. The Colts ran for 321 yards and passed for 217 more. The Lancers managed just 103 altogether.
Royce ran the ball just 10 times for 108 yards; Kammer ran 11 times for 96 more.
Against what? Not much. So the Colts don’t know a whole lot more about themselves than they did at the start of the night, but this much is pretty apparent: Thurston is blindingly fast all across its roster; the Colts are also experienced and relentless.
“We solved a couple of things tonight,” head coach Justin Starck speculated. “We had to replace our corners, for one, and we needed a new linebacker. Kommer stepped in there and did well, so we think he’ll play two ways for us some this year.
“We needed to replace some receivers, and I was impressed with Santino (who also is a linebacker and safety on defense). He looked pretty good out here.”
The players were giddy about the win, but realistic about the season thus far. Middle linebacker Jake Riley addressed the topic of coming back after a championship season.
“We had some really early practices in doubles,” he said. “We were out there for 6 a.m. practices. That’ll keep you on the ground.
“The idea of repeating stays in the back of the mind. We try to focus on one game at a time and put our hard hats on. But that’s hard to do after you’ve one one.”
Big tackle Grant Starck (yeah, the coach’s kid) put it the same approximate way.
“It’s hard not to think about it,” he said of repeating as champions. “But we have to start over. We have to start the dream as if we’d never done it in the first place.”
The dream won’t have long to get a nasty reality check. Next week the 5A Colts play the local monsters, 6A Sheldon on the road next week.
So one way or another, the fun’s either over — or just beginning.