Seaside knocks Gladstone out of title contention in semis, 23-19
Gladstone High School's football team saw its season come to end Saturday -- one game shy of playing for an OSAA Class 4A state championship.
Seaside delivered the knockout blow as the Seagulls rode a staunch defense and handful of big plays by tailback Alexander Teubner and quarterback Payton Westerholm to a 23-19 victory over the Gladiators in Saturday's semifinal at Hillsboro Stadium.
Both teams scored three touchdowns each, but Seaside converted a pair of two-point conversions and kicked one PAT that helped propel the Seagulls (10-1) in the championship final for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1994.
"It's going to be awesome," Seagulls coach Jeff Roberts said, looking ahead to Saturday's 6 p.m. championship final against Banks (10-1) at Hillsboro Stadium. "We're going to embrace the opportunity and do the best we can.
"I love our chances. I'd never bet against our kids."
Gladstone put up a good fight, but the Gladiators (8-3) struggled to make plays and avoid penalties in a number of key situations.
In the first half, Gladstone came away empty on two drives inside the red zone, and then the defense got burned on a trick play when Westerholm pitched the ball to Teubner, who then threw to a wide-open Brayden Johnson for a 46-yard touchdown that gave the Gulls a 16-6 lead with 2:03 to play in the second quarter.
Another key turning point came early in the fourth quarter when the Gladiators failed to convert a fourth-and-2 play from their own 28-yard line, giving the ball back to the Gulls at their own 29 with 11:42 to play.
Two plays later, Westerholm rolled to his right looking to pass, then scrambled back to his left and scored on a 33-yard run that pushed the lead to 23-13 and helped put the game out of reach with 10:45 to play.
"Anytime you're battling for a spot in a championship game like this today, you have to play a perfect game, and we didn't play a perfect game," Gladiators coach Wayne Harris said. "We made it here, but I didn't accomplish my personal goal, and that was to have these guys play for a state championship.
"When we have success, it's because the players work hard and do the right things. And when we don't have success, it's on me as a head coach. And we didn't get the job done."
There were a few tears shed on the Gladstone sideline after the game, but the Gladiators walked off the field with their heads held high, knowing they'd given everything they had.
"Sometimes it just goes the other team's way," Gladstone junior defensive back Jaxon Jedrykowski said. "We played our hearts out and I'm sure they played their hearts out, too, and the better team won.
"The season was amazing. It's the greatest season I've ever had and I love every single one of my teammates, I love every single one of my coaches, and I love this community."
Senior lineman Jackson Simmons seconded that motion.
"We did a great job fighting the whole game," Simmons said. "Seaside is a good team, obviously. A lot of costly stuff happened, but we played our hearts out and they were the better team today.
"I'm satisfied with our season. We had a great season."
One factor that neither team had prepared for was a howling East wind that played havoc with the kicking game.
The wind worked in Gladstone's favor when Seaside lost two fumbles on muffed punts in the first half, but it also worked against the Gladiators as sophomore placekicker Mateo Burgos watched both an extra-point try and a 29-yard field goal attempt sail wide left at the North end of the field in the second quarter.
Penalties were another key factor in the game.
Seaside drew six penalties for 87 yards, and Gladstone was flagged 11 times for 143 yards, but two of the most notable infractions were encroachment penalties on the Gladiators as the Seagulls were lining up to kick extra points after each of their first two touchdowns.
Those two penalties moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, taking the ball from the 3-yard line to the 1 1/2, and in both instances, the Gulls called back their kicker (why risk a wind-blown miss?) and ran the ball instead.
The Gulls converted both two-point attempts, Teubner scoring the first to make it 8-6 with 8:56 to play in the second quarter, and Westerholm scoring the second to push the lead to 16-6 with 4:59 left in the half.
After Seaside went three and out on its first series of the second half, Gladstone went on a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with senior quarterback Jake Gehrke scoring on a 10-yard run that cut the deficit to 16-13 with 2:55 to play in the third quarter.
The drive started with 11 consecutive run plays -- four to Ben Hill, four to Sabastian Peiffer, and three to Spencer Boyd -- that took the ball from the Gladstone 20 to the Seaside 32. A pass play to Boyd, another pass to Jedrykowski, and two more run plays for Peiffer took the ball to the 10, and then Gehrke did the rest, capping a drive that took 7:29 off the clock.
The Seagull then ran five plays on offense before they were forced to punt, kicking the ball into the end zone for a touchback with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
With momentum on their side, the Gladiators ran three plays that netted 8 yards, setting up a fourth-and-2 at the Seaside 28. Gladstone called timeout and decided to go for it.
"We thought Seaside was tired because their defense had been on the field for quite some time," Harris said. "What we tried to do the second half was to wear them out and get 'em tired, and that's why we went for it.
"And the thing is, we've been going for stuff like that all year. Anytime you feel you have one of the better lines you can to that. But also know, too, that the pressure of the game played into that decision."
Gehrke brought the team to line ready to run one play, surveyed the defense, and checked to another run play for Peiffer, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore.
"It was going to be a quarterback sneak, but then we checked it to an inside handoff," Gehrke said. "I thought we could get it. I thought we could get a push, but right before we snapped the ball, I saw them load that 'A' gap with four guys.
"I thought we could have done it, but it was scary. It came down to who wanted it more, and they got the push."
A split-second after Peiffer got the ball, he got hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage by Seaside's Travis Fenton, the 6-2, 245-pound senior. Peiffer lunged forward where he ran into more resistance, falling a yard shy on the line needed to gain.
"Seaside double-blitzed the 'A' gap and I couldn't really do anything about that," Peiffer said. "I tried my hardest."
Was it the right decision to roll the dice in that situation?
"I think we had to do it," Gehrke said. "That was the game. We had to do it. I definitely think any other time we can get that first down. I'm confident in our line to get that push and I'm confident in Sabastian getting that push, but sometimes the other team gets lucky."
Said Simmons: "I always believe in our guys that we can make any play. I always trust in our guys that we can always get a push, and we just came up short that time."
On the Seaside sideline, Roberts had his fingers crossed before the ball was snapped.
"I thought it was the right decision for Gladstone," the Gulls' coach said. "I mean, I do. They had proven all game that they could get two or three yards a pop. Why wouldn't you hang your hat on that, right?
"If you put the ball in our hands again, we're going to run the clock out and I felt comfortable about that. I think their coaches made the right decision."
Two plays later, facing second-and-14, Westerholm rolled to his right looking to pass, then broke back to his left and scrambled 33 yards for the touchdown that made it 23-13 with 10:45 to play.
"Anytime you don't convert on fourth down, you second-guess yourself, but this is for the right to go to the championship," Harris said. "I just felt we could get that first down, but Seaside made a good stop and it's like that old saying: 'You live by the sword, you die by the sword.'
"Then Seaside scored on the next drive and that's when you realize that maybe we should have punted."
After Burgos drove the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, Gladstone again needed the defense to make a stand.
Eight consecutive run plays with Teubner over the left side moved the ball from the Seaside 20 to the Gladstone 28. Then facing fourth-and 3, Westerholm picked up 6 yards on a bootleg to the right, giving the Seagulls a first down with 1:46 remaining.
Teubner picked up another first down as the clocked ticked down to under a minute to play, and then all that was left for Seaside to do was have Westerholm take a knee three times to end it.
Seaside ran a total of 43 plays and finished with 318 yards total offense, led by Tuebner, who had 21 carries for a game-high 168 yards rushing and one touchdown.
"I think our defense bailed us out a lot today," Roberts said. "We've been the highest-scoring football team in 4A, so I think that's what we've been accustomed to being able to do -- score points. The last couple of weeks, our defense has picked up the slack.
"To give Gladstone the ball three times with a short field and turn them away twice, what more can you ask for? We put it in the offense's hands after that fourth-down stop and then they were able to just grind it out."
Gladstone ran 64 plays and had 326 yards total offense, led by Peiffer with 20 carries for 85 yards and Boyd with 11 carries for 61 yards. Gehrke added eight carried for 23 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 10 of 13 passes for 134 yards and one TD.
"That was a helluva game," Gehrke said. "Sad to lose and sad to see the season end, but that was two good teams going at it. Seaside just capitalized on a few mistakes and got the win."
The Gladiators went undefeated in Tri-Valley League play to win their second consecutive league title under Harris and earn the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A's 16-team playoff bracket.
Gladstone knocked off defending state champion Cottage Grove 37-25 in the first round and then downed La Grande 30-27 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2014 -- the season the Gladiators won it all.
"The season we had was great," said Peiffer, who was named the Player of the Game for Gladstone. "We had really good chemistry, the team was awesome, and I love all of my teammates. We had our struggles when we lost to Marshfield (20-17) and Seaside (70-46) at the beginning of the season, but then we had a seven-game win streak and everything was going good.
"This was a great game. We battled. Seaside had a few plays that we could cover, like that halfback pass, but it was a great game and I wish the best of luck to Seaside."
Added Gehrke: "It was a helluva season. I'll remember it forever. I know each and every one on the team will remember it forever."
SEASIDE 0 16 0 7 -- 23
GLADSTONE 0 6 7 6 -- 19
G -- Jake Gehrke 1 run (kick failed)
S -- Alexander Teubner 41 run (Teubner run)
S -- Brayden Johnson 46 pass from Teubner (Payton Westerholm run)
G -- Gehrke 10 run (Matwo Burgos kick)
S -- Westerholm 33 run (Gio Ramirez kick)
G -- J.P. Peterson 23 pass from Gehrke (kick blocked)