A potential preview of the 2A football final lived up to the hype Friday night when No. 2 Heppner rallied from a 13-point deficit to win 34-28 at No. 1 Kennedy.
The reigning state champion Mustangs (4-0) fell behind 21-8 in the first half and still trailed 28-26 in the fourth quarter before senior Brock Hisler scored the go-ahead touchdown on an eight-yard run with 1:45 left. Heppner added a two-point conversion and held on to extend its winning streak to 22.
“Even if we had lost the game, I told them I would've been just as proud of them for how resilient they were and how they adapted,” Heppner coach Greg Grant said of his players. “It's a process for us to get better. A win is a win, and yes, we'll take it, but the way we played after coming back from such a rough start is what makes me really proud of these guys.”
The game was a rematch of the 2019 final, won by Heppner 12-7. The teams also met in the 2018 playoffs, when Kennedy won 34-0 in the first round on its way to the state title.
Friday night, Kennedy (3-1) led 28-20 in the fourth quarter, but Heppner got within 28-26 on a 40-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Landon Mitchell to senior Kason Cimmyotti. The two-point attempt failed.
The Mustangs held on defense and drove for Hisler's go-ahead score, which was set up by a pass from Mitchell to Cimmyotti. Mitchell passed to Cimmyotti for a two-point conversion to lead 34-28.
“They played a lot of man coverage, and so we knew that there would be chances over the top,” said Mitchell, who completed 12 of 14 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns, two each to Cimmyotti and senior Jace Coe. “My offensive line did such an amazing job of blocking that I could just throw it up and my receivers could make a play. Those receivers and offensive line made my job really easy.”
Grant said the win reflected on his team's approach during the week.
“We had a little bit of a watershed moment earlier this week where we decided we would do things a little differently and have a little more fun, but have a little more focus,” Grant said. “To the kids' credit, they really stepped up.”
It was the second time this season that Heppner has scored late to pull out a win. In a 15-12 win over Warrenton in Week 2, the Mustangs took the lead on a 14-yard pass from Mitchell to Cimmyotti with 1:52 left.
Kennedy senior quarterback Riley Cantu staked his team to a 21-8 lead, passing and running for touchdowns, before leaving late in the first half with a hand injury. He was replaced by sophomore Elijah Traeger, who returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown in the first half.
“We made some mistakes on offense and defense that we haven't made this year, but we'll watch the film and we'll learn,” Kennedy coach Joe Panuke said. “It will make us better. Hopefully, we will get to see these guys again. They are the best 2A team we've played. Even after losing our quarterback, I thought we still stayed together and played well.”
Roseburg goes to 4-0
For years, winning was almost an afterthought at Roseburg, where legendary coach Thurman Bell won 332 games and four state titles from 1971 to 2015.
But the Indians have gone through some hard times in recent years, winning a combined 11 games in the last six seasons.
The way Roseburg has started this season, however, it appears the team is charting a new course. The Indians rolled to a 41-0 home win over McMinnville on Friday to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2013, when they started 5-0.
“I like where we're at. We're excited,” said coach Dave Heuberger, who replaced Bell in 2016. “And it's exciting for the student body to be a part of that.
“Some of the people here still remember those days. It's on both ends of the spectrum. You've got coaches on staff and players who have never experienced that. And then you have coaches and community that's experienced a whole lot of it. So it's kind of neat to bridge that gap a little bit.”
Senior quarterback Colton Marsters rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns and sophomore Cayden Eckel ran for 122 yards and a score in Friday's win, the team's final nonleague game before opening 6A Southwest Conference play this week at Grants Pass.
The 5-7, 150-pound Eckel has rushed for 505 yards and eight touchdowns this season, surpassing 100 yards in each game.
“He's that traditional scat-back you used to see in the '80s that could dart through some things,” Heuberger said.
Marsters turned out for football for the first time in the spring and started at receiver and cornerback. He moved to quarterback this season and has rushed for 456 yards and six touchdowns in the team's fly offense.
“It's fun watching him progress at that position. He gets better every week,” Heuberger said.
Roseburg's offensive line – which starts two seniors and three juniors and rotates in two other juniors – has been opening gaps for Eckel and Marsters. The unit has made great strides since the Indians went 1-4 in the spring.
“They played the game right in the spring, it's they were undersized and overmatched,” Heuberger said. “I think those kids kind of got a chip on their shoulder about it, hearing about how bad we were. I thought last year we had a chance to do some things, as well, as far as getting back to .500, and COVID kind of wiped that out.”
Roseburg's defense is holding opponents to 6.5 points per game. Junior defensive tackle Tiger Black (6-4, 250) and senior outside linebacker Dawson Gillespie (6-1, 170) have been leading the way.
West Albany's offense, which has been adjusting to losing junior tailback Marcus Allen to a lower leg injury in Week 2, broke loose for 486 total yards and a season-high point total in a 42-20 road rout of Crescent Valley on Friday.
The Bulldogs (4-0), ranked second in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll, got contributions all around, in particular from senior quarterback Michael Cale and their young backfield duo of sophomore Anthony Vestal and freshman Tyler Hart-McNally.
“When you lose your starting running back, you kind of have to search a little bit,” West Albany coach Brian Mehl said. “We had to figure out how we're going to be productive and move the ball.”
Cale, who became the starter in the spring, had his best game of the season. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns, two to Riley Paxton and one each to DeMarcus Houston and Brysen Kachel. Four different receivers caught at least four passes.
“We're definitely going to lean on Michael to handle our run game and get the ball out to guys who have the ability to make plays,” Mehl said of Cale, who has thrown for 647 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions this season.
Vestal, who has taken over as the starting tailback since Allen was injured against Canby, rushed for 127 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries against Crescent Valley (1-3).
“I think it demonstrated his ability to be a weapon back there,” Mehl said. “He got his shoulders down and he finished out runs.”
The Bulldogs are excited about the potential of Hart-McNally, who began the season on the freshman team but was called up for the team's third game against Corvallis. He ran for 72 yards on 10 carries Friday.
“Kids like that don't come around that often,” Mehl said. “He definitely belongs on a varsity football field. I just can't wait to watch that kid for four more years. We were watching him at the freshman level kind of do his thing. With the injury to Marcus, it just seemed like the right time to make that big move.”
Mehl said that the 5-10, 175-pound Hart-McNally gives the offense a change of pace.
“He has some good wiggle, and he has some good jets, for sure,” Mehl said.
West Albany is hopeful for Allen's return.
“He's not done for the year, he's just not ready to go yet,” Mehl said. “I think it's sooner than later, which is encouraging.”
Civil War resumes
When the Marshfield-North Bend game was canceled last week due to COVID issues in the North Bend program, it appeared that the Civil War rivalry – uninterrupted since 1917 – would be forced to take a pause.
But due to some schedule shuffling, the teams were able to meet Saturday afternoon at Marshfield, where the Pirates, ranked No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 4A coaches poll, beat the visiting Bulldogs 55-6. Dom Montiel passed for four touchdowns -- two each to Mattux Mateski and DJ Daugherty -- and ran for two scores.
“It's not natural to not play the Pirates during football season,” said North Bend athletic director Mike Forrester, a Marshfield graduate. “It's good for us to be able to play each other.”
The game came about when Newport, scheduled to play Marshfield on Friday, asked out of the game early in the week. Marshfield athletic director Greg Mulkey agreed, provided he could find a replacement game.
Mulkey contacted Forrester to inquire about North Bend's availability. The Bulldogs were set to play host to Roosevelt of Portland on Friday, but due to lingering COVID issues, they were unsure if they would be able to keep the date.
Understanding that North Bend's availability was in jeopardy, Roosevelt was able to forgo the nine-hour round trip and schedule a Friday game at Milwaukie, about 25 minutes away.
With Newport scheduling a game against Baker, North Bend and Marshfield were free to meet. The Bulldogs thought they would be missing as many as 15 players for a game this week, but as it turned out, they were down only six. By waiting an extra day to play, they got two more players back.
Alas, the great rivalry resumed.
“I wouldn't want to be the seniors that didn't get to play in the Civil War game against the crosstown rivals,” Mulkey said. “I mean, we played them in the spring in a bad situation. I just felt it was really important for us to do whatever we could as athletic directors to maintain something that has been pretty special.”
Forrester said it meant a lot to the community, which has been starved to attend events this season.
“Last week, there were a lot of people disappointed that we weren't playing,” Forrester said. “Playing Marshfield is a big deal in our community, but I think more than anything, our kids really want to play football. And our parents and fans want to go watch our kids play.”
Estacada continued to cut a path through the 4A top 10 Thursday with a 44-14 win over No. 8 La Grande, the 2019 state champion.
In their first three games, the third-ranked Rangers defeated Stayton 38-8, No. 5 Banks 33-7 and No. 9 Seaside 30-14. All four of Estacada's opponents so far were playoff teams in 2019.
The Rangers are battle-tested, to put it mildly. And if that's not enough, up next is the Tri-Valley Conference opener against traditional state power Gladstone, a team they haven't beaten since 2016.
“A couple years ago when we scheduled this at the OSAA meeting, my assistants gave me that big-eyed look like, 'Holy moly, dude,'” Estacada coach Andy Mott said. “We knew it was going to be a gauntlet. The kids have just risen to the occasion.”
Behind their massive line, the Rangers rushed for 373 yards against La Grande. Junior quarterback Cory James had an 86-yard touchdown run and finished with 143 yards on five carries. Senior Hunter McDonald and junior Waylon Riedel rushed for 84 and 71 yards, respectively. Riedel and senior Jake Behrman each ran for two scores.
Estacada is averaging nearly 400 rushing yards per game.
“We have a pretty stout rushing attack,” Mott said. “It's about six or seven kids that are kind of sharing the load. We don't have a feature back or a superstar guy, so our line is just paving the way.
“Defensively, we've just kind of had that bend-but-don't-break mentality. We've been able to hold people down from putting a lot of points on the board.”
Other highlights from Week 4:
West Linn turned back Camas (Wash.) 24-14 as Mark Hamper caught a touchdown pass and snagged his fourth interception of the season. … Grady Newsom threw three touchdown passes and Caleb Kim rushed for 140 yards to lead Sunset past Aloha 49-0. … Grant smothered Franklin 70-7, getting four touchdowns from Jae'Sean Pete. … Jackson Tunick caught five passes for 124 yards and one touchdown in Grants Pass' 28-20 win over Shasta (Calif.). … Lakeridge dispatched South Medford 30-7 as Jake Reichle rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries and Joey Olsen caught a 65-yard scoring strike from Danny Johnson. …
North Medford topped Liberty 31-27, getting the go-ahead score with 3:47 left on a 52-yard pass from Mason Warren to AJ Pugliano. Bryce Dyer had six catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns and added two interceptions for North Medford. … Jefferson rushed for 254 yards and took advantage of eight Lincoln turnovers – seven in the second half – to pull away for a 34-14 win. … Lake Oswego's Jack Layne completed 23 of 28 passes for 447 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score in a 48-17 win over Sheldon. Gabe Olvera caught eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 104 yards and two scores on 17 carries for the Lakers, who also got two touchdown catches from Justius Lowe. … Tualatin defeated West Salem 41-7 behind Jack Wagner, who completed 16 of 19 passes for 247 yards and ran for 81 yards. … Blake Baker threw three touchdown passes for Clackamas, which raced to a 28-0 lead after one quarter and beat Nelson 52-0. ...
Michael Rincon rushed for 172 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries for Jesuit, which edged Westview 44-42. Drew Bennett had three interceptions for the Wildcats, returning two for scores. … Daschel Smith passed for 314 yards and four touchdowns in South Salem's 42-35 win over Mountain View. … McNary ousted Bend 41-21 as Tyler Copeland threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns, two to Braiden Copeland. … Beaverton's Hunter Borter threw six touchdown passes, three to Cristian Gonzalez, in a 56-28 win over Southridge. ... Ellis Bynum rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns on four carries as Central Catholic blitzed Sandy 41-0. ... Centennial rushed for 486 yards in a 34-21 win over Gresham, getting 230 from Akari Harris and 213 from Haiden Taylor, who had a 97-yard touchdown run.
Thurston gained 440 yards in thumping Willamette 44-0. Jacob Newell caught two touchdown passes and had 138 receiving yards for the Colts. … Alex Briseno rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns and Jordan McCarty threw two scoring passes to Austin Ratliff as Silverton beat Dallas 42-7. … Caden Lasater scored touchdowns rushing and receiving in Crater's 28-6 win over Springfield. … Churchill brushed off Ashland 32-0 behind Austin Mills, who rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns. … Pendleton handed Hood River Valley its first defeat, rallying from a 21-6 halftime deficit to win 35-21. Brock Mackey ran for two touchdowns for Pendleton. … Taylor Seiber ran for a 38-yard touchdown and returned an interception for a score to lead South Albany past Lebanon 21-19. … Wilsonville extended its conference winning streak to 26 by turning back Scappoose 52-41. Chase Hix passed for 219 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 87 yards and a score for the Wilcats, who led 28-0. … Mikey Gibson threw three touchdown passes and Tyler Konold ran for three scores for Canby, which beat St. Helens 55-13. … Corvallis overcame Central 19-14 as Toby Worsch ran for two touchdowns. … Octavio Quevedo kicked a 28-yard field goal on the final play to give McKay a 31-28 win over Forest Grove. Kyrin Fuimaono passed for four touchdowns for McKay.
Cascade rushed for 586 yards to subdue Tillamook 62-20. … Marist Catholic built a 41-0 lead by halftime and cruised to a 41-16 road win over 3A Cascade Christian. Carter Greene completed 4 of 5 passes for three touchdowns and ran for a score for the Spartans. … Aiden Kindt ran for a score with four seconds left, and Treyce Horton added the extra point, to lift Mazama over Eagle Point 21-20. … Coltin Smith caught a touchdown pass and had two interceptions to propel Henley past La Pine 16-14. … Hidden Valley defeated Sweet Home 36-16 as Daniel Iwamizu scored three touchdowns. … Trailing Stayton 7-0 in the final minute, Astoria's Rocky Rub threw for a touchdown to Mikai Tapec and a two-point conversion to Luke Cummings for an 8-7 win. … Carter Pickett had two touchdown runs in Woodburn's 21-0 win over North Marion, the Bulldogs' third shutout of the season.
Tanner Steele threw two touchdown passes to John Wolfe and rushed for 114 yards as Vale defeated New Plymouth (Idaho) 12-6. … Dayton dominated Blanchet Catholic 38-8 behind four touchdowns from Zach Smith, who rushed for 233 yards on 33 carries and caught three passes for 67 yards. … Beau Aldrich and Indiana Olson each ran for two touchdowns as St. Mary's beat Harrisburg 43-14. … South Umpqua improved to 4-0 by handling previously unbeaten Philomath 41-8. Jace Johnson passed for 271 yards and four touchdowns and the Lancers held the Warriors to 89 total yards. … Hordie Bodden Bodden rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two scores to spark Warrenton to a 48-36 win over Sutherlin. Dawson Little returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown for Warrenton. … Santiam Christian built a 21-0 lead in the first quarter – getting a blocked punt for a touchdown from John Coiner – on its way to a 41-0 win over Sisters. … Quarterback Beau Erickson scored on a two-yard run with 5:58 left to break a 7-7 tie and give Siuslaw a 15-7 win over Gladstone. … Scio built a 22-0 halftime lead and coasted past Douglas 38-0.
Gunner Rothenberger rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns to lead Toledo past Monroe 44-36. Brody Ballard rushed for 235 yards and two touchdowns and passed for two scores for Monroe. … Reedsport took advantage of four turnovers in the first half to run away from Rogue River 45-6. … Oakland stopped Jefferson 42-30 as Jayden Henry rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns and Baker Brooksby ran for 196 yards and one score. … Theo White recovered a fumble in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to lift Weston-McEwen over Stanfield 12-7. ... Lakeview improved to 4-0 with a 26-20 win at Bandon. Benny Alves threw two touchdown passes and Gavin Patterson ran for two scores for the Honkers.
Down 26-14 at half, Bonanza rallied for a 36-26 win over Tulelake (Calif.) as Tanner Mestas rushed for 203 yards. … Lute Ramsden rushed for 238 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and threw for a score in Wallowa's 36-22 win over Union. … St. Paul got 177 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Hunter Naumann in beating Camas Valley 67-22. … Crane beat Elgin 56-12 as as Tate Sword returned an interception for a touchdown and Mitch Clark threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Ty Taylor on the game's first play. ... Taylor Rollins ran for three touchdowns in the second half to rally Ione/Arlington past Pilot Rock 38-24. … Austin Halstead caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception for a score in Elkton's 21-2 win over Yoncalla in a six-man game.
Andre Panse contributed to this report