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Squad from three Wheeler County high schools hammers Triangle Lake 32-13 to take the 1A six-man football championship

LON AUSTIN  - Nate Clark rushes upfield, avoiding Triangle Lake tacklers, during the Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler County Rattlers' l32-13 victory in the 1A six-man football championship. In a rematch of last year's unofficial Class 1A six-man football championship, the Mitchell/Spray/Wheeler County Rattlers whipped the Triangle Lake Lakers 32-13 to win the first official OSAA 1A six-man state championship Saturday afternoon at Caldera High School in Bend.

"It's fantastic; it's absolutely fantastic," Rattler head coach Jerry Anderson said. "I'll tell you what, last year nobody expected it out of us and this year we had a target on our back and our kids just played super hard."

The game was a hard-fought, but mistake-prone battle. The game saw the teams commit seven turnovers, four by Triangle Lake and three by the Rattlers. Even the officials got involved in the mistakes as Wheeler County had a touchdown called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield, a call that is impossible in six-man football as there are no ineligible receivers. The officials also called the Triangle Lake quarterback down on a sack that was clearly a fumble recovered by Wheeler County.

Still, Anderson was not worried about the errors in the game.

"We are a good football team", he said. "So good football teams will overcome mistakes and will overcome things like what happened, so we just kept playing football."

The Rattlers won the coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, instead choosing to on-side kick on the opening kickoff. Triangle Lake recovered the ball on the Wheeler County 49-yard line. However, two plays later the Rattlers forced a fumble that was recovered by Logan Sweeney on the 45-yard line.

On the ensuing play, Nate Clark took the snap from center, lateraled to Carter Boise, then raced around the left side of the line, catching a pass from Boise. Clark took it all the way to the four-yard line. Two plays later, Boise carried the ball in for a touchdown. Damian Dobias drop-kicked the two-point conversion and the Rattlers led 8-0 less than a minute and a half into the game.

"Definitely this one was sweeter than last year," Clark said of the victory. "Because we knew the whole season that we had a target on our back and everyone was hunting for us. So, coming in with the winners mentality and also being the top team, it's tough to do. We are a lot of heart, and we are the whole county. We have always wanted this and we wanted to bring something like this to our town forever."

On the ensuing possession, Triangle Lake was unable to get their offense going, eventually turning the ball over on downs on the Rattler 47-yard line.

Clark raced for an apparent touchdown on the next play, but the play was called back for a block in the back. Still, it was a 22-yard gain for Clark and a first down. A horse collar penalty gave the Rattlers a first down on the 20-yard line, but a fumbled snap recovered gave Triangle Lake the ball back.

Once again, Triangle Lake was unable to move the ball. This time the Lakers punted and the Rattlers took possession on their own 43-yard line. An illegal procedure penalty moved the ball back to the 38-yard line, but on the next play Boise hit Clark with a 20-yard pass for a first down. Another penalty moved the ball back to the 44 yard-line. However, another pass from Boise to Clark moved the ball to the 29-yard line. On the next play, Boise scampered 29-yards for his second touchdown of the game. The drop-kick was blocked, but the Rattlers led 14-0 with 3:32 still remaining in the first quarter.

Another on-side kick failed for the Rattlers, but once again Triangle Lake turned the ball over on downs and Wheeler County quickly capitalized, scoring four plays later on a six-yard pass from Boise to Zach Neuberger. The pass from Dobias to Boise came up just short, but the Rattlers led 20-0 late in the first quarter.

"Pretty amazing" Neuberger said of the win. "I'd say this year was better because we are all a year older, and we are bigger stronger and faster and we appreciate it more. Something that coach said was, last year, we didn't know any better. Last year we just came out and we played our football game and ran all over people. This year we actually had to put the work in and scheme up how we were going to beat these teams. Because all of them targeted us."

That's the way the first quarter ended. Two plays into the second quarter Triangle Lake turned the ball over on downs again. This time Boise hit Oran Davis with a perfect strike for an apparent 55-yard touchdown pass. However, instead of a touchdown the Rattlers were called for holding, moving the ball all the way back to their own 29-yard line. A 23-yard pass from Boise to Neuberger and a four-yard run by Boise gave the Rattlers a first down. However, two plays later came the Rattlers first big mistake of the game.

Boise dropped back to pass then threw the ball into the flat. The Wheeler County receiver dropped the ball, but an alert Mitch Dumford of Triangle Lake realized that instead of a pass it was a lateral, scooped the ball up and went 55 yards for a touchdown. The conversion attempt failed, but the Lakers were back in the game, trailing just 20-6 with 7:26 left in the half.

The Rattlers responded with a six-play 52-yard drive that culminated in an eight-yard pass from Davis to Clark. The extra point attempt failed, but Wheeler County was back in control of the game, leading 26-6 with 4:50 remaining in the half.

On their ensuring drive, Triangle Lake fumbled a lateral and Sweeney picked up his second recovery of the game, this time on the Wheeler County 36-yard line. On the next play, Boise threw a strike to Davis for another apparent touchdown, but this time the Rattlers were called for an ineligible receiver downfield, even though there is no such penalty in six-man football.

Instead of a sure touchdown, the Rattlers eventually turned the ball over on downs on the 50-yard line. Triangle Lake tried to take advantage, moving the ball down the field. However, Boise leaped high in the air and intercepted a Gus Gamache pass in the end zone. Boise fell with the ball just outside the end zone and after a discussion the officials awarded the ball to the Wheeler County crew on about the half-yard line rather than giving them a touchback.

An encroachment penalty on Triangle Lake moved the ball just outside the five where the Rattlers took a knee ending the first half.

Triangle Lake made some defensive adjustments at halftime and the second half was a defensive battle.

Wheeler County took the third quarter kickoff and marched quickly down the field. However, a botched lateral led to a fumble recovery by the Lakers Dakota McConnell on the 15-yard line. On the next play, Clark sacked Gamache, forcing an apparent fumble, but the officials ruled that Gamache was down. Neither team moved the ball the remainder of the third quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Rattlers once again stopped Triangle Lake on downs and quickly moved the ball down the field with Boise scoring on a 30-yard run. The extra point attempt failed, but the Rattlers were up 32-6 with just 5:49 remaining in the contest.

On their ensuing possession, Triangle Lake finally scored their lone offensive touchdown of the game on a 10-yard pass from Gamache to Garrett Warren. The pass from Gamache to McConnell was good as the Lakers closed to within 32-13 with 4:01 remaining in the game.

The Wheeler County contingent then tried to run out the clock, but eventually turned the ball over on downs. Still, the Rattlers were able to run the clock down to just over a minute left. Four consecutive incomplete passes gave the Rattlers the ball back with just over 30 seconds left. Davis then took a knee and the Rattlers celebrated as the clock ran out.

Clark was named Wheeler County's most valuable player of the game by the OSAA, after finishing with seven catches for 122 yards and a touchdown as well as several tackles for loss and a number of passes that he broke up. Meanwhile, Boise also had an outstanding game, carrying the ball 22 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns as well as completing 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Boise also had three tackles for loss along with an interception as the Rattlers outgained Triangle Lake 409-129 in total yards.

"These guys hit hard all the time", Anderson said. "Boise and Clark are both steer wrestlers, so they aren't afraid of anything. We are just proud of the whole team. We didn't get a lot of kids to play in this game, but everybody contributed. They practiced hard. We hit during practice a lot and they all really played well, the whole time."

Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler County 20 6 0 6 – 32

Triangle Lake 0 6 0 7 – 13

WC – Carter Boise four-yard run. Damian Dobias drop kick good.

WC – Boise 30-yard run. Kick failed.

WC – Zach Neuberger six-yard pass from Boise. One-point conversion failed.

TL – 55-yard fumble recovery by Mitch Dumford. One-point conversion failed.

WC – Nate Clark eight-yard pass from Oran Davis. Kick Failed.

WC – Boise 30-yard run. Kick failed.

TL – Garrett Warren 10-yard pass from Gus Gamache. Pass from Gamache to Dakota McConnell good.

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