By Zack Hall
Clayton York spent his first Civil War associated with the Oregon State football program sitting in the Reser Stadium stands watching the Beavers get blasted.
Had the Beavers won, Oregon State would have gone to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965.
As it turned out that was just the beginning of Civil War disappointments for the Redmond High School graduate.
Oregon State will spend Friday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene trying to do something it has not done since 2007: Beat rival Oregon in the Civil War.
For York, a 23-year-old who spent five seasons as a walk-on fullback at OSU, the lack of success in the Civil War is his darkest memory in an otherwise high time in Corvallis, he says.
“I was there five years, and we lost five Civil Wars in a row,” says York, who is spending his first fall out of the program and interning at an athletic training facility in Portland to complete his degree in exercise sports science.
“The losses are not something I look upon fondly, obviously,” he adds.
The Beavers (4-4 Pac-12 Conference, 6-5 overall) will meet the Ducks (6-2, 9-2, No. 13 BCS) as 22-point underdogs again in this, the 117th version of the Civil War.
And it will come on the heals of a rough five years, a run in which the only game in the in-state showdown that was settled by less than 17 points was the Beavers’ painful 37-33 loss in 2009.
“It was frustrating,” York says. “You play, you want to win. Especially with a rivalry.”
Regardless of the recent run of misfortune, for those Central Oregonians within the Beaver program (including sophomore middle linebacker Joel Skotte, who is expected to play Friday) there is a special significance to the Civil War.
That is certainly the case for Beau Walker, a 24-year-old former Bend High School football standout who has worked as a sort of coach in training since he was a freshman at OSU in 2008.
“Because I lived in Oregon my whole life, it’s always been a pretty important game and it has always been kind of the focus at the end of the year for me,” says Walker, who is now an “off-the-field” graduate assistant most visible on game days signaling in the offensive play calls. “I think I have watched every game with my dad (former Bend High football coach Craig Walker).”
Before 2008, Walker had never attended a Civil War in person. Since, he has been a fixture on the Beavers’ offensive coaching staff.
“Working here, there is obviously more of an impact on how important or how great the experience is of being part of a Civil War,” Walker says. “That’s pretty cool.”
Walker has gained rare insight into the program in his years in Corvallis. And with that experience comes perspective.
Like most at OSU, Walker says, he does not concern himself too much with losing streaks. And he scoffs at the notion that OSU is falling behind its in-state nemesis.
“I don’t think that affects the kids who play here,” Walker says. “At the end of the day, it’s always just about football. Throw all the other stuff out the window, you still have to play the game.”
Does that mean the Beavers have a chance Friday?
Both teams appear to be backing into the annual rivalry game. The Beavers are coming off a brutal 69-27 home loss to Washington. Oregon was embarrassed, 42-16, by Arizona last week.
Those results have provided a level of uncertainty to this year’s game for many observers.
In his best coach speak, Walker says in the end it will come down to what most football games come down to: turnovers, good decisions, third-down conversions and solid defense.
“In the past they’ve had some really good teams,” Walker says. “So have we, but every game is a new game. You have to come play with that kind of mindset that you can play with any team if you focus on those things and do a good job on those three or four things.”
York shares that optimism.
The fullback made the second start of his career in the 2011 Civil War. Last year he caught a pass for six yards, but was stopped short on a crucial fourth-down run in his only carry of the game, which ended with a 48-24 UO win.
After all those frustrations, York figures it is about time for the Beavers to flip the script.
“We are kind of overdue for a win in the Civil War,” says York, who will watch the game on television this year. “We’ve been an underdog the whole time I was there, and we still expected to win the Civil War, just like you do every game. It doesn’t matter if you’re the underdog, you don’t go into a game thinking, ‘Oh, well we’re not (favorites) on paper so let’s hope for a win.’ You never hope for a win. You plan on winning.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7868, email@example.com .