By JESSE SOWA/for OSAAtoday
A time-consuming drive to open the third quarter and some big defensive plays down the stretch pushed Lost River to a repeat football state title Saturday.
The Raiders chewed up nearly eight minutes off the clock to extend their lead on Crane, then held on for a 30-20 win in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 1A-8 final at Caldera High School in Bend.
Quarterback Chase McAuliffe threw two touchdown passes and ran for three more for Lost River, which finished off an undefeated season at 11-0 and won its 20th consecutive game under 25th-year head coach Dennis Dunlea.
Leading 24-14 at halftime, the Raiders took control on the opening drive of the third quarter with a 13-play, 63-yard drive. Emmett O'Brien hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass from McAuliffe. The two-point run failed, but Lost River had a 16-point lead.
"I thought in the midst it was a championship drive," Dunlea said. "As we progressed I wasn't sure. But it was at minimum a statement drive by our offense, line and tight end in particular, setting the tone for the finish."
Crane (10-1) had its ensuing drive reach the Lost River 18. But a holding penalty stalled the possession, and the Mustange turned the ball over on downs at the 26.
Lost River turned the ball over on downs near midfield before Crane climbed closer on Josh Zander's 32-yard scoring pass to Trenton Potter with 7:24 left in the game. The Mustangs' two-point pass failed, leaving it a 10-point margin.
Crane was quickly back in business after Keegan Sallee recovered a Raiders fumble at the Crane 48. But O'Brien tackled Crane's Carter Nichols a yard short of a first down on a fourth-and-2 pass play from the Lost River 43 with 5:12 to go.
Lost River converted plays for three first downs, the last on a Crane substitution penalty, to run out the clock to claim the school's fourth football title and third under Dennis Dunlea.
Dunlea said his team had some lulls at times this season while chasing a repeat.
"But by and large they showed up every day to work for each other," he said. "Far from perfect, but with every team wanting to beat number one they were outstanding."
McAuliffe, a senior and also the Raiders' quarterback in the 2022 43-0 title game win against St. Paul, was 12-of-15 passing for 118 yards and two scores. He also rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns and had a team-high eight tackles.
Connor Dunlea, the coach's son, had 65 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving with a touchdown to go with seven tackles. Teammate Kayden Hartman rushed for 38 yards.
Zander was 16-of-28 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns for Crane, which was playing for its first state championship in the sport after three previous runner-up finishes.
Nichols had 88 yards rushing, 10 tackles and five kickoff returns for a total of 120 yards. Cody Siegner added 102 yards receiving, Potter 48 yards receiving, and Ross Clark 11 tackles.
Lost River, of Merrill, had a 22-13 edge in first downs and possessed the ball for more than 27 minutes.
"I thought our D was very resilient to say the least," coach Dunlea said. "Did a good job of stopping the run, but they have some difficult matchups to deal with. Played hard from beginning to end and made some big plays at opportune times."
Crane opened the game's scoring in the first quarter after taking advantage of a short field thanks to Clark's defensive fumble recovery at the Lost River 48. Zander completed two passes to Siegner, the second for a 27-yard touchdown. Sallee ran in the two-point conversion.
Connor Dunlea then capped off an 11-play, 69-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring catch from McAuliffe. Hartman's two-point run tied the game.
Early in the second quarter, Lost River made good on a short field, taking just two snaps to cover 46 yards, with McAuliffe racing 32 yards for a touchdown. O'Brien's two-point reception put the Raiders up 16-8.
Crane answered right back with Nichols' 6-yard touchdown catch from Zander on a fourth-and-goal play. But the two=point pass fell incomplete, leaving Lost River in the lead.
The Raiders then completed the scoring in the first half when McAuliffe connected with JC Navarro for 14 yards on fourth down before the quarterback ran it in from 8 yards out. Dunlea caught the two-point pass for a 24-14 advantage with 1:20 left in the first half.
Crane drove 70 yards for an apparent score, but Nichols' 17-yard touchdown reception from Zander was called back on an illegal forward pass penalty. A pass to the end zone on the final play of the half was knocked down.