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The sophomore running back rushes for 475 yards in Oregon Citys first two games

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Oregon City sophomore running back Conner Mitchell (7) eludes a tackler in last Fridays 42-20 win over Crater. Mitchell had a huge game, rushing 40 times for 311 yards.The Oregon City Pioneers are off to a great start in football, thanks in large part to the legs of running back Conner Mitchell.

The 5-9, 180-pound sophomore has rushed for a combined total of 475 yards in the Pioneers’ first two games, a 40-14 win at Gresham and a 42-20 win over Crater in last Friday’s home opener.

The Pioneers amassed 530 yards in offense last Friday and Mitchell was a huge part of it, picking up 311 yards and scoring two touchdowns on 40 carries. He would have had an even bigger game except that a 44-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter was brought back because of an illegal block.

“He’s an outstanding football player, without a doubt,” said Oregon City coach Bruce Reece. “Our challenge will be to keep him healthy, because he goes both ways and were not super deep at any position.

“We feel really good about having Conner as a running back, but we have some other guys pushing him. Jordan Ferguson being one of them....”

Another sophomore, 5-10, 172-pound slotback Trevon Bradford, has also been an impact player in the first two games. Bradford had three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown against Crater, and he had a 40-yard punt return in that game that set up a Pioneer score. In the win at Gresham, Bradford had two pass receptions for touchdowns, he averaged 25 yards on three punt returns and he had a 47-yard kickoff return.

The Pioneers also have a place kicker who is money. Pioneer senior Alex Canchola has gone five-of-six on field goal attempts in the Pioneers’ first two games; he put four kickoffs into the end zone at Gresham.

Oregon City 6-0, 205-pound senior Jon Hall has also come unto his own as the Pioneer quarterback. Hall had four touchdown passes in the games with Gresham and Crater. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 116 yards in last Friday’s win over Crater.

The Pioneers were impressive in the first half of last Friday’s 42-20 win over the Comets. The game would have been even more lopsided, except for 90 yards in penalties.

“We are going to address our mistakes and do a better job of eliminating penalties,” Reece said.

Penalties stalled a 74-yard drive early in the game and Oregon City settled for Canchola’s 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

On the first play following an unsuccessful Crater fourth-down conversion, Hall hit Bradford with a 51-yard touchdown pass to up the lead to 9-0.

Jordan Villarreal-Ferguson forced a fumble with a hard hit on the ensuing kickoff. Pioneer Jonathan Marquett pounced on the loose ball, gaining the Pioneers the ball at the Crater 21. Hall found junior receiver Hunter Knighton open in the left corner of the end zone and the Pioneer lead was 15-0.

Crater senior quarterback Ty Fox connected with senior receiver Kory Bennett for a 79-yard touchdown pass play in the closing seconds of the first quarter, trimming Oregon City’s lead to 15-7. But that was Crater’s only scoring threat of the first half.

Villarreal-Ferguson returned a punt to the Crater 38 early in the second period. Eight plays later, Villarreal-Ferguson took the ball in from one yard out for a 22-7 lead.

Oregon City got the ball back on downs at the Pioneer 38. And five plays later, Mitchell zigged and zagged through Crater defenders for a 36-yard touchdown run and a 29-7 Pioneer lead.

While penalties slowed the Pioneers after the halftime break, Crater took to the air and got back in the game.

Davey McCollum capped off a mostly-passing 11-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

Oregon City rode Mitchell’s legs in a five-minute drive, but due to penalties, the Pioneers settled with a 30-yard field goal by Canchola.

An 82-yard pass play from Fox to junior receiver Dylan Morgan cut Oregon City’s lead to 32-20 with two seconds remaining in the third period.

Mitchell had his 44-yard touchdown run called back because of an illegal block in the back, and the Comets appeared to have all the momentum.

With 9:51 still left to play, it looked like the Comets would pull to within a touchdown. Fox hit Dallin George with a long bomb and George sprinted all the way to the end zone for what looked like an 83-yard touchdown pass play. Fortunately for Oregon City, an illegal block below the waist brought that score back.

A short time later, Fox was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct following a hard hit by Oregon City defensive end Anthony Corvi.

The game belonged to Oregon City the rest of the way, as the Comets could do little without the heady play of their 6-2, 215-pound senior helmsman.

Bradford returned a punt deep into Comet territory and Mitchell scored on a 3-yard run a short time later, making it 39-20 Oregon City.

Canchola added a 26-yard field goal with a minute to play, and the Pioneers had their winning margin.

Fox was most of Crater’s offense, completing 13-of-24 passes for 282 yards and rushing 11 times for 54 yards.

Oregon City (2-0) gets its final tuneup for Three Rivers League play this Friday at David Douglas. The Scots are 0-2 to start the 2013 season, with losses to Sunset (37-27) and South Salem (58-35).

Oregon City 40, Gresham 14

Oregon City rallied around its defense, the legs of sophomore running back Conner Mitchell, and the toe of senior kicker Alex Canchola to top Gresham 40-14 in the Pioneers’ 2013 football opener, played at Gresham on Aug. 30.

Mitchell was a workhorse, rushing 27 times for 164 yards, and scoring an early fourth-quarter touchdown that pretty much put the game on ice.

The Pioneers struggled to punch the ball into the end zone in the first half. But a 41-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jon Hall to sophomore wide receiver Trevon Bradford and two short field goals and a PAT kick by Canchola had Oregon City up 13-7 at halftime.

Hall hit Bradford with a 47-yard scoring strike in the third quarter, upping Oregon City’s lead to 20-7. And when Mitchell scored from eight yards out in the opening seconds of the fourth stanza, the Pioneers were in the driver’s seat, leading 27-7.

Gresham’s only touchdowns were scored on a one-yard run by senior running back Devin Tapec in the second period, and on an 80-yard run by senior running back Gregonta Brown following Mitchell’s score.

Senior Anthony Corvi scored from five yards out and junior running back Jake Lundmark scored on an eight-yard run late in the game to round out Oregon City’s scoring.

Besides hitting field goals of 23 and 27 yards, Canchola was a perfect 4-for-4 on PAT kicks, and four of his eight kickoffs went into the end zone.

Lundmark had eight carries for 54 yards on the night.

Hall completed 8-of-18 passes for 129 yards, with one interception.

Senior wide receiver Matt Oades had six receptions for 41 yards. Bradford had only two catches, but they both went for touchdowns; and the sophomore talent averaged 25 yards on three punt returns and had a 47-yard kickoff return.

Sophomore linebacker Kiahve Dennis-Lee was Oregon City’s leading tackler.

Oregon City’s defense was most effective against the Gopher aerial assault. Gresham senior quarterback Devon Shields completed only 7-of-23 passes for a 52 yards, with one interception — by Jonathan Marquett.

The Pioneers finished up with a 368- to 297-yard edge in total offense.

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