HILLSBORO – Lowell's football team picked the perfect time to overcome its nemesis Saturday.
The third-seeded Devils, whose only losses in the last two seasons have come against Weston-McEwen/Griswold, more than settled the score with a resounding 74-42 win over the No. 1 TigerScots in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 2A final at Hillsboro Stadium.
Led by junior tailback JaMar Thurman, Lowell rolled up 618 total yards. In an ironic twist, the Devils scored the most points in an OSAA final since 2013, when they lost to Imbler 88-76 in the 1A final in their only previous championship game appearance.
The victory made up for losing to Weston-McEwen 27-21 in the quarterfinals last year and 25-23 in Week 4 this season.
“We just had that fire in us. We really wanted to beat them,” Thurman said. “We were 0-2 against them, and we were, to be honest, really (upset) about that. So we came in here, we made our adjustments. We have really great coaches. We just showed up and played ball.”
This year's nonleague loss to the TigerScots (11-1) provided plenty of fuel for the Devils (12-1).
“Honestly, that game put a chip on our kids' shoulders,” first-year Lowell coach Ray Yarbrough said. “From that game forward, our games were over at halftime. Our kids came out and blew other teams out. Our kids were ready to get here. They knew they wanted the rematch.”
Said sophomore quarterback Carter Harris: “We were looking for revenge. We just wanted that win. This is the biggest time to do it. We knew what we could do, and we balled out.”
Weston-McEwen coach Kenzie Hansell, whose team lost in the final for the second year in a row, was impressed with Lowell's improvement.
“They're physical,” Hansell said. “What they do, they do really well. Credit to Lowell in making big plays all game long.”
Hansell said Thurman is a “great, great running back.”
“JaMar Thurman is going to get his yards,” he said. “I'd say he's the best running back we've seen. Their offensive line blocks well for him.”
It marked the first championship for the Devils. Lowell has been known as a wrestling school, winning 14 team state championships from 1971 to 2013.
“Every time I go in our gym, I'm like, 'Yeah, it's amazing, but I don't see any football,'” senior tight end Rowan Files said of the wrestling banners. “I was like, 'My senior year, I just hope we can get it together and win us a state title.' I'm so grateful and so happy.”
It helped that Lowell has one of the state's most explosive players in the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Thurman. He put on a show Saturday, rushing for 266 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries and catching three passes for 30 yards and one score.
For the season, Thurman rushed for a state-leading 2,958 yards and 44 touchdowns.
“He's an amazing young man, amazing football player,” Yarbrough said. “He's as good as I've coached at running back, and I've coached some special athletes. I think he'd play at any school in Oregon, whether it was 6A through 1A. We're just glad he's here at Lowell.”
Harris, who left a semifinal win over reigning champion Oakland in the second quarter with a strained neck, returned to action and completed 11 of 17 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 83 yards and one score on eight carries.
Considering Harris was immobilized and taken to a hospital by ambulance after his injury last week – delaying the game for 45 minutes – it was a remarkable turnaround.
“For a 15-year-old kid to be taken off on a stretcher, and then come back and want to play, he didn't show like he was scared at all,” Yarbrough said. “That takes a lot of bravery and guts. I'm really proud of him.”
Having Harris back on the field gave the Devils an emotional lift.
“It meant a lot to us because it was a really scary situation,” Thurman said. “We were just praying for him. Thank God it wasn't something that he couldn't play in this game. We're all very excited and happy that he's here.”
Lowell took a 15-0 lead in the first quarter and never trailed. Weston-McEwen got to within 22-21 in the second quarter and 29-28 in the third quarter, but Lowell built the lead to 51-28 on three consecutive touchdowns – a 31-yard pass from Harris to Files and runs of 63 and 46 yards by Thurman.
Files had three catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns and senior Justus Thurman – JaMar's brother – had four catches for 146 yards and one score. Justus Thurman saw limited action in the Week 4 game against Weston-McEwen in returning from a knee injury.
“We knew that we've gotten so much better,” Files said. “We've studied and we did everything that we needed to do to come in here and win.”
It is the first title for Yarbrough, who moved from assistant to take over when Pat Todd resigned after 12 seasons as coach. Yarbrough had previous head-coaching stops at Illinois Valley (2008-14), Churchill (2015) and Oakridge (2019).
“He pushes us,” JaMar Thurman said. “He wanted to be a champion, and he made us champions.”
Weston-McEwen gained 422 yards but couldn't keep pace with the Devils. Junior Easton Berry completed 15 of 24 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. Junior Maddox King rushed for 60 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries and caught four passes for 68 yards and one score.
The TigerScots are still seeking their first state title.
“These kids really wanted to win a state championship,” Hansell said. “It was a goal from 365 days ago when we were here against Oakland. We're so proud of our kids to get back here.”