HILLSBORO – Down by one point at halftime Saturday night, Estacada was feeling a bit uncomfortable in a 4A football semifinal against Scappoose at Hillsboro Stadium.
The Rangers, who rolled to a 29-point win at Scappoose early in the season, couldn't seem to get out of their own way in the first half, undone by a rash of penalties and a costly turnover.
“At halftime, we just said, 'Take a deep breath, it's a one-point game,'” Estacada coach Andy Mott said. “The kids kind of had that look like we were down by a couple scores.”
The Rangers collected themselves and took over the game in the second half, using their punishing ground game to subdue the Indians 14-7. It was a turnabout from last year, when Estacada got blown out in the second half of a semifinal against Marist Catholic.
“The coaches came in the locker room at halftime and they said, 'We need to turn it around. That's what we need to do to them,'” Rangers senior quarterback Cory James said. “'We need to come out in the second half and just bring the ball to them and pound it down their throat.'”
James rushed for a two-yard touchdown and senior James Durand ran for a two-point conversion to give Estacada a 14-7 lead with 2:27 left in the third quarter, and the Rangers closed it out with their suffocating defense and ball-control running game.
The win means that fifth-seeded Estacada (11-1) will play for its first-ever title when it meets No. 6 Tillamook (10-2) in the championship game at Hillsboro Stadium on Nov. 26. The only other time the Rangers have made it this far was 1953, when they lost to Crook County 31-14 in the A-2 final.
“We've just got to go do it,” Estacada senior running back Waylon Riedel said. “Better done than said. I'm happy, I'm going to celebrate, but it's not over yet.”
Estacada rushed for 366 yards and threw only one pass, a completion for minus-1 yard. Riedel rushed for 115 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries and James added 110 yards and one score on 15 carries.
The Rangers ran right at the eighth-seeded Indians (9-3) and dared them to stop it.
“It's definitely simple, but it's effective,” Riedel said. “And we can do it. It works. We're just physical and we go at you. It's our bread and butter.”
Estacada blocked a 39-yard field-goal attempt by Scappoose senior Aimar Cancinos on the game's first series, then drove 66 yards to score on a one-yard touchdown run by Riedel. A two-point run attempt failed, keeping the score at 6-0.
The Indians quickly answered with a 13-yard touchdown run by senior D'Angelo Macedo-Becker, taking a 7-6 lead on Cancinos' extra point.
The Rangers appeared ready to retake the lead late in the second quarter, but on second-and-goal from the Scappoose 6, senior James Durand fumbled and Scappoose senior Jonathon Clothier recovered at the 4.
Estacada wasted another good scoring chance early in the third quarter when senior Tucker Jackson couldn't handle an errant pitch from James and Indians senior Trey Dieringer jumped on the ball at the Scappoose 40.
“We were getting frustrated, but we weren't getting down on ourselves,” James said. “We never got down on each other, we kept our heads up. We knew if we could hold onto the ball and limit the turnovers that we'd come out on top.”
On their next possession, the Rangers finally completed a drive. James busted loose for a 41-yard run to the Scappoose 23, and ran for the four-yard touchdown that proved to be the difference.
James' long run seemed to energize the Rangers.
“It did, especially with the fans,” James said. “Everybody from our town and community showed up tonight, and after than run we knew they were getting tired. We had the fans and everything on our side. We had the momentum going, we just needed to execute.”
Scappoose reached the Estacada 30 late in the third quarter, but senior Aron Meraz ended the threat with an interception. The Indians punted on their next possession, and the Rangers ran out the last 6:56 by picking up four first downs.
“We were very hungry. Obviously, that showed,” Riedel said. “We had a lot of guys step up and be leaders. We wanted it bad, and we showed that tonight.”
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Riedel pounded away at the heart of the Scappoose defense.
“That kid, I remember in youth he used to play lineman because he was balancing weight and everything,” James said. “And once he got to high school, he was just like, 'You can eat whatever you want.' He's just been our power back.”
Scappoose, coming off a 28-27 overtime win at top-seeded Mazama, could not find a consistent flow on offense as the Rangers held them to 194 total yards.
“Kudos to our defense. They're our MVPs for tonight, to hold Scappoose to seven points with all the weapons they have,” Mott said. “They just kept giving us opportunities. I knew eventually one of our drives was going to stick.”
Indians sophomore quarterback Max Nowlin completed 13 of 23 passes for 122 yards and one interception. Macedo-Becker rushed for 83 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries and caught two passes for 36 yards.
Scappoose coach Sean McNabb said the game illustrated how far his team has come since the first meeting between the teams. He noted that the Indians started five sophomores on defense, including two defensive tackles.
“The mismatch of them up front, and us up front, to be able to be in a position like that is pretty phenomenal,” McNabb said. “We had some skinny kids out there. I thought our kids played really well. Seeing where we were Week 2 and where we are now, it's just awesome.”
McNabb lamented not taking bigger shots on offense.
“Their defense is fast and physical,” McNabb said. “Hindsight, seven minutes to go, looking back, I probably should have went for it. I felt like we could get a stop, get the ball back, and have that miracle ending like we had at Mazama. To no avail.”