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4A FOOTBALL: Estacada pulls to within three points late, but is unable to get the ball back

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Estacadas Kaden Settle returns a kickoff to near midfield during the Rangers 23-20 loss to Gladstone on Friday night.

Special District 2

Team Score

Midway through the fourth quarter, Gladstone offensive linemen Brady Fox and Gage Newberry helped open a hole in Estacada's defensive front that was big enough to drive a truck through.

All tailback Mason Scheehean had to do was get there.

The dicey footing was made even dicier by the rain that had turned parts of Estacada's Buzz Randall Field into a mud pit, but that didn't slow down Scheehean.

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior busted through the hole, got past a couple Estacada tacklers and was gone, breaking a 65-yard touchdown run that helped seal the Gladiators' 23-20 victory Friday over the previously-undefeated Rangers.

"It was a counter play," said Scheehean, whose second touchdown run of the game gave Gladstone a 23-12 lead with 5:19 to play. "I cut it right and I almost slipped. I gathered myself when I saw that hole and then I just ran for my life.

Gladstone quarterback Hudson Meyer threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mateo Burgos in the first quarter, and Scheehean added a 64-yard TD run in the second quarter that gave the Gladiators a 14-6 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter, Burgos hit a 22-yard field goal, Estacada quarterback Isaiah Schaffer answered with a 2-yard touchdown run, and then Scheehean popped the biggest play of the night to help the Gladiators improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in 4A Special District 2 action.

"They were fortunate plays," Gladstone coach J.J. Jedrykowski said of his team's three big scoring plays. "Every time we called them, I'm crossing my fingers and saying, 'Gosh, I hope this hits,' because Estacada was pretty much stopping everything else."

Estacada's Kaden Settle caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Schaffer at the end of a nine-play, 80-yard drive, and Sam Garrison tacked on a two-point conversion run that lifted the Rangers within a field goal, 23-20, with 2:12 to play.

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Estacada QB Isaiah Schaffer prepares to make a handoff in the backfield on a muddy night at Buzz Randall Field.

Gladstone had no trouble fielding the squib kick on the ensuing kick off and then ran for a couple of first downs before Meyer took a knee to seal the deal.

"We bottled Gladstone up tight, minus about three or four big plays," Rangers coach Andy Mott said. "We knew we had enough fight in us to claw back in the game, but with about five minutes left, it was an uphill battle to put a couple scores on the board."

It was a disappointing result for the Rangers (3-1), who were looking to start 4-0 for the first time since 2015.

"It was a tough game and I think we played really tough out there," said Garrison, the Rangers' senior running back/linebacker. "Gladstone has a lot of talent on the front line, but when we really wanted it and we found that energy to go for it, we were moving the ball. We just didn't have it the whole time. This one hurts, it really does."

A little rain? A muddy field? A slippery football? Those were all factors in the game, but those things also were actually bigger issues for the Rangers, whose first two possessions of the second half ended with fumbles.

On the second turnover, Gladstone's Ethan Finnigan knocked the ball loose from Schaffer and Fox, the senior lineman, recovered at the Estacada 25. The Gladiators then went on an eight-play, 29-yard drive that ended with Burgos' 22-yard field goal, pushing the lead to 17-6 with 9:14 to play in the fourth quarter.

In addition to the two defensive takeaways, the Gladiators also recovered an onside kick after their first touchdown in the first quarter. The extra possession didn't produce any points, but it kept the ball away from Estacada's offense for three minutes in a game where one more possession for the Rangers might have made difference.

"Any chance we could get, we wanted to hold onto the ball," Jedrykowski said. "We needed to just keep chewin' clock, keep chewin' clock, be patient and keep the ball out of Estacada's hands."

Estacada had the ball four times in Friday's first half. The Rangers turned the ball over on downs on their first possession, punted on the next two, and then went on a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that ended with Jose Vasquez scoring on a 23-yard run that made it 7-6 with 4:26 to play in the second quarter.

In the second half, Estacada again had the ball four times. After the first two drives ended with fumbles, Schaffer scored on a 2-yard run to cap a five-play, 45-yard drive that pulled the Rangers within 17-12 with 7:01 left in the fourth quarter.

Scoring summary

GLADSTONE 7 7 0 9 — 23

ESTACADA 0 6 0 14 — 20

G — Mateo Burgos 49 pass from Hudson Meyer (Burgos kick)

E — Jose Vasquez 23 run (run failed)

G — Mason Scheehean 64 run (Burgos kick)

G — Burgos 22 FG

E — Isaiah Schaffer 2 run (run failed)

G — Scheehean 65 run (run failed)

E — Kaden Settle 36 pass from Schaffer (Sam Garrison run)

This story is slated for our Oct. 3, print edition.

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