4A football: Gladstone runs away from error-prone North Valley, 51-14
The Gladstone Gladiators went no more than two or three pages into their playbook to find what would work in Friday night's playoff opener against North Valley.
Basically, it was the exact same stuff that has carried Gladstone since day one of the 2019 high school football season.
When the Gladiators had the ball, they gave it to either Sebastian Peiffer or Mason Scheehean running in one of three directions — left, right, or straight up the middle.
And when North Valley had the ball, the Gladiators ran around on defense as if their hair was on fire and forced the Knights into making a whole bunch of mistakes that they probably wouldn't have made if they were back home in Klamath Falls.
When the final horn sounded, Peiffer and Scheehean had rushed for a combined 404 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Gladiators to a 51-14 blowout in Friday's opening round of the OSAA Class 4A football playoffs at Gladstone's Dick Baker Stadium.
Mateo Burgos also caught a touchdown pass from Hudson Meyer and kicked a couple of field goals, and the Gladstone defense registered two safeties and three interceptions to help send the Gladiators (7-2) into next week's quarterfinals against La Grande in La Grande.
"I think North Valley is a good football team," Gladstone coach J.J. Jedrykowski said. "I thought we were more physical than them and that showed early. Speed-wise, we were faster, but I really didn't know what to expect.
"After I watched them on film, I thought, 'OK, this is a good football team, this is going to be a challenge for us, and we're going to face some adversity.' We did, but we caused it ourselves."
The Gladiators had one fumble that set up North Valley's first scoring drive and a rash of penalties that held them back at times, but that was nothing compared to the series of miscues that knocked the legs out from under the Knights (6-4).
Any road team that throws three interceptions, fumbles the ball into the end zone for a safety, snaps the ball over the punter's head for another safety, and fumbles the snap on another punt attempt inside its own 10-yard line probably is not long for the playoffs.
"I think we kind of got caught under the lights a little bit here," North Valley coach Neil DeForresst said. "Some of these guys haven't been in this situation before and I think it was a little bit 'big' for them to start the game.
"We made a lot of mistakes the first half, dug a deep hole, and then Gladstone did a great job of taking advantage of our mistakes."
The game's opening drives helped set the tone for how the game was played.
The Gladiator had the ball first and went on a three-play, 74-yard touchdown drive, taking a 6-0 lead on Scheehean's 24-yard run with 10:57 to play in the first quarter.
The first time North Valley had the ball, the Knights drove into Gladstone territory, but gained nothing on third and one from the 38, then went for it on fourth down and lost a yard, turning the ball over on downs at the 39.
The next time North Valley got the ball, the Knights were facing second and 10 at their own 11 when quarterback Dylan Neufeld flipped the ball beyond running back Elijah Colas' reach and into the end zone where Colas fell on it for a safety that made it 8-0 with 3:45 to play in the first quarter.
After Burgos hit a 37-yard field goal to make it 11-0, Gladstone's Blake Harman intercepted a Neufeld pass to set up a four-play, 45-yard scoring drive that ended with Burgos catching an 18-yard pass from Meyer in the right corner of the end zone to push the lead to 18-0.
North Valley finally got on the scoreboard on a 44-yard, Neufeld-to-Colas touchdown pass with 4:15 to the second quarter, but Gladstone answered with Scheehean breaking a 57-yard touchdown run — his longest run of the game — to make it 25-7 with 3:17 remaining in the half.
The Gladiators then capitalized on two more North Valley miscues to close the half with Scheehean scoring on a 10-yard run after the Knights fumbled the snap on a punt attempt, followed by a Burgos 35-yard field goal after Jaxon Jedrykowski intercepted a Neufeld pass with eight seconds left.
That made it 35-7, which, as DeForrest mentioned, was too deep a hole for the Knights to climb out of.
"Like I said, too many mistakes early on," DeForrest said. "We did not play very crisp and clean football. For whatever reason, our kids just made some silly mistakes in our blocking schemes and you can't do that against a team like Gladstone.
"I would have liked to have come out and played a better, four-quarter football game and kept the score a lot tighter. Looking at video, you feel pretty good about the match-up going in. But then you see Gladstone in person and that's a good football team. They play downhill, they're physical, and they did a great job. They're going to be a handful."
Scheehean, the 6-foot, 185-pound senior, finished with 16 carries for 225 yards and four touchdowns, while Peiffer, the 6-2, 225-pound junior, had 22 carries for 149 yards and one score.
"We had a great week of practice and we just came out here and played Gladiator football," Scheehean said. "The offense executed on almost every play and our defense did an amazing job of stopping the run.
"I did all right, I guess. My offensive line is amazing. They always create holes and I just read 'em and go."
The Gladiators advanced to the quarterfinals for the seventh time in the last 10 seasons and are in a position to advance to the semifinals for the second season in a row.
"We've worked hard all year for this," senior lineman Josh Heywood said. "It started after we lost in the semis last year, just putting in the work to try to get back to where we were.
"I think we played a great game tonight. Probably not one of our best games, but we definitely played a great game."
The question now becomes: Do the Gladiators have what it takes to go on the road and win at La Grande in a rematch of last year's 4A quarterfinals?
"Being around it for a long time, in my mind when you get to the Elite Eight, it's anybody's tournament. It really is," said J.J. Jedrykowski, who guided the Gladiators to a state championship in 2014. "To be one of the final eight is a great accomplishment, but our kids would like to keep going and keep playing.
"It's really on the kids. The coaches are going to be here and the kids just have to want it. At this time of year, coming out when it's cold and you've been playing football since August, it takes a lot of players who are mentally tough to come out and do that every day. But this is a good group of kids and they've got a good energy about them, so we'll see."
NORTH VALLEY 0 7 7 0 — 14
GLADSTONE 11 24 0 16 — 51
G — Mason Scheehean 21 run (pass failed)
G — Safety, North Valley recovers own fumble in end zone
G — Mateo Burgos 37 FG
G — Burgos 18 pass from Hudson Meyer (Burgos kick)
NV — Elijah Colas 44 pass from Dylan Neufeld (Ole Schnuerer kick)
G — Scheehean 57 run (Burgos kick)
G — Scheehean 10 run (Burgos kick)
G — Burgos 35 FG
NV — Colas 25 pass from Jayden Twedell (Schnuerer kick)
G — Scheehean 13 run (Burgos kick)
G — Safety, ball snapped over punter's head and out of end zone
G — Sebastian Peiffer 2 run (Burgos kick)
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