SCIO — By tapping into the program’s traditional identity, Kyle Braa has transformed Scio High into a perennial football contender.
Braa, in his eighth season as head coach, is 78-16 overall with six league championships (two Tri-River Conference, four PacWest Conference) and a pair of 2A state titles. A prolific rushing attack coupled with a physical defense were the hallmarks of each team.
The formula hasn’t changed in 2017 as the top-seeded Loggers (9-1) prepare for Saturday’s matchup with No. 4 Cascade Christian (10-1) at Cottage Grove High in the 3A state semifinals. Kickoff is scheduled for noon with the winner advancing to meet No. 11 Rainier (9-2) or No. 2 Santiam Christian (9-2) in next week’s finals.
“It’s about all of my coaches,” said Braa, a 2001 Scio graduate who went on to play at Western Oregon. “We are all on the same page, we have the same vision and we know how we want to do things. It’s kind of a brotherhood here and we just understand the vision of Scio sports.”
The majority of Braa’s staff is comprised of fellow Scio alumni.
Assistant coaches Casey Childress and Jon Rounsavell graduated with Braa in 2001 while Matt Parazoo (class of 1994), Sam Gray (1997), Mike Ferguson (1999), Justin Guest (2011) and Harley Stephenson (2013) also attended Scio. Chad Peck and Will Baldwin have become adopted Loggers.
“It’s probably one of the best coaching staffs you could be around,” said senior Jake Lowther, the PacWest offensive lineman of the year. “They all work together real well so it makes us feel like we’re smarter even though we are just listening to them. Our coaches, they are just awesome from top to bottom.”
Added senior running back and defensive back Brody Foster: “At first I was a little intimidated because they are all bigger, serious guys. But now that I’ve been through the program, I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are guys that are very smart in football and they’ve put endless hours into it to help us out, especially around this time of the year.”
Braa’s initial stint as head coach lasted from 2007-10. The Loggers went 14-9 during his first two years before rattling off consecutive 14-0 records en route to the 2009 and 2010 2A state titles.
After walking away to focus on family and graduate school, Braa returned to the helm prior to the 2014 season. Jim Mask, Scio’s current athletic director, went 28-8 in Braa’s stead.
“My wife had our first kid, I had to go back and get my master’s and I was still the AD at the time. It just seemed really overwhelming trying to do all that,” Braa said of his decision to stop coaching. “So I stepped back, got my master’s done, my kid grew up a little bit and my wife was OK with me getting back into the deal.”
The Loggers have never missed the postseason under Braa, qualifying for six quarterfinals, five semifinals and two title games.
Braa credits the community’s youth programs for the varsity team’s consistency.
“We’ve had really good middle school coaching that’s helped with the fundamentals,” Braa said. “When kids come up to the high school level, I wouldn’t say that they’re ready for varsity football by any stretch, but they’ve got a good foundation, and that’s helped us a lot.”
Scio got off to a 6-0 start last fall and was poised for another deep playoff run before several injuries crippled its chances. The Loggers limped into the round of 16 and were routed by Cascade Christian, 49-0, to end the season.
The Challengers ran through the battered Loggers while quarterback Haiden Schaan, a two-time Southern Cascade League offensive player of the year, was effective in the passing game.
“I’ll never forget that loss,” Lowther said. “I don’t think we were even prepared for the week because we were so scrambled, trying to figure out who we were going to put where. Just no one was healthy and as much as you don’t want to use that as an excuse, that’s really what happened.”
Schaan is now a senior for the Challengers, who average a 3A-best 48.8 points per game. Cascade Christian’s defense gives up just 15.5 per contest.
Scio’s offense (44 points per game) and defense (16.8) have put up similar numbers this fall.
“They caught us at our worst moment last year, and we certainly remember the 49-0 game,” Braa said. “In addition to playing another week, that’s a bit of extra motivation.
“We are hitting our stride at the right time. I don’t know that we’ve peaked yet, hopefully that’s this weekend, but we are getting there and I don’t think there’s any question about that.”