Portland Christian scored 24 points despite little run game, but has its hands full on defense

by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD - Portland Christian's Jesse DeLucia stiff-arms a Grant Union defender on his way downfield during Saturday's Class 2A semifinal game at Summit High in Bend.BEND — Portland Christian’s quest for its first football state championship came to an end Saturday one victory short of the Class 2A state title game.

The Royals (12-1), who entered the postseason as 2A’s top-ranked team, dropped their semifinal contest against No. 4 Grant Union 34-24 at Summit High.

Steven Mumford completed 21 of 45 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns against one interception for Portland Christian, but the Northwest League champions rushed for just 23 yards, gave up 410 yards and allowed five touchdowns.

Entering Saturday’s semifinal round, Portland Christian had allowed 25 points total in its previous eight games.

“They were just bigger,” Mumford said about the Prospectors of John Day, who will play Statyon’s Regis High on Saturday for the 2A title. “They didn’t do anything a whole lot different from what we’ve seen this year, they were just bigger and played hard. They were faster than I thought they would be, too.”

Grant Union quarterback Dalton Reimers sparked the Prospectors’ balanced offense by having a hand in all five of his team’s touchdowns.

Reimers threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 8-of-18 passing and rushed for two more scores to put Grant Union in the final for the fourth time in school history.

“He’s a triple threat,” Prospectors coach Jason Miller said of his senior signal caller. “He can do anything. You can’t take anything away from him because he’ll go somewhere else. He’s got the quick passing game, the deep passing game and the running game. He’s a special kid.”

Reimers and Grant Union sealed the victory with an aggressive play call midway through the fourth quarter.

Facing second-and-10 on the Royals’ 43-yard line with a 28-24 lead and 8:36 left, Reimers hit receiver Braden Witty on a deep post pattern that put the Prospectors up 34-24. The 2-point conversion failed.

Portland Christian turned over the ball on downs on its next two possessions before Grant Union ran out the clock.

“They were physical up the middle,” said Royals coach Cal Szueber, whose teams are 24-3 over the last two seasons. “We had trouble running the football. We’re not the biggest team around, but our athletes did really well.”

by: COURETSY OF BETH MUMFORD - David Guild runs after a catch to set up Portland Christian's first touchdown.
Portland Christian cruised early in the game, taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

Given a short field after a blocked punt, Mumford put the Royals up 7-0 four minutes into the game when he connected with David Guild on a 3-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal.

Kicker Jesse Cayatano made it 10-0 in favor of Portland Christian with 1:50 left in the first quarter, as he drilled a 29-yard field goal.

Grant Union rallied in the second quarter, though, and outscored Portland Christian 20-7 in the 12 minutes before halftime. Down 17-14 with 1:15 left in the half, the Prospectors marched 70 yards in less than a minute and took a 20-17 halftime lead after Reimers and Witty connected for a 12-yard touchdown pass play.

“We’ve got nothing but fight in us,” said Reimers, whose team’s only loss this season was a 20-14 double-overtime defeat to Heppner last month. “We got down a touchdown last week and came back. We knew we could do it again this week. This team knows how to fight back and perform.”

Levi Coalwell carried the load for Grant Union on the ground, rushing for 91 yards on 13 carries. Lane Williams added 68 on 13 touches for the Prospectors.

Witty had just two catches for 57 yards, but both went for touchdowns.

Rayce Houser had four catches for 101 yards and one score.

For the Royals, Nathan Mumford proved to be his older brother’s favorite target. The younger Mumford recorded nine catches for 139 yards.

by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD  - Nathan Mumford hauls in a pass for Portland Christian.Jesse DeLucia finished with 122 yards receiving and one touchdown on five catches despite leaving the game early in the third quarter with a leg injury.

Chris DeBusman also scored for Portland Christian.

“That really hurt us offensively and defensively,” Szueber said, of losing DeLucia. “Without Delucia, we couldn’t run the ball very well.”

After giving up 17 first-half points, Grant Union began to press Portland Christian’s receivers more at the line of scrimmage in the second half.

The slight tweak in strategy threw the Royals’ timing off just enough to slow down their passing attack.

“With any team (at halftime), it’s a little wrinkle here, a little wrinkle there,” Miller said. “Their quick passing game got to us, so we started putting more pressure on and changed up our coverages so as not to get stagnant. It worked out.”

Even with the loss, the Royals ended the season as one of the most accomplished football teams in Portland Christian history. The 2013 squad advanced to the semifinals for just the third time in school history and won 12 games, which ties the mark set by the 2006 and 2012 Royals.

“It’s been a tremendous run the last three years,” said Szueber, who took over the Portland Christian football program in 2011. “They’ve stepped it up each year.”

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