With one minute left before halftime, it felt like momentum was slipping away from Estacada football.
The Rangers were on the road facing Crook County Friday night, Oct. 29, with an historic season on the line. The Cowboys had just scored to make it 23-14, the crowd was roaring — and it felt like an upset might be brewing.
But like they have all season, the Rangers buckled down and found a way to find the endzone.
"Our kids are unselfish," said Coach Andy Mott. "They don't care who gets the touchdowns or who makes the big plays — they just want to win."
With the half winding down, the Rangers showcased an uncharacteristic no-huddle offense and blitzed down the field. Usually a methodical running game powers Estacada, but circumstances in the first half forced the team to go to the air. With their reputation preceding them, Crook County's defense had been packing the box all night and daring the Rangers to throw the ball.
"When people are gearing up to stop our run, in years past we haven't always had the ability to complete passes and move the ball down the field," Mott said.
But this is a different Estacada squad. Rangers junior quarterback Cory James moved the ball through the air well in the first half and continued to make connections in that final drive. With eight seconds left on the clock and facing fourth-and-2, Estacada junior running back Waylon Riedel was able to score on an option run, putting his team up 30-14.
"That seemed to put a stamp on things and kept Crook from having that momentum going into halftime," Mott said. "The touchdown took the wind out of their sails."
Estacada football would go on to win the barn-burner on the road against Crook County 52-34, achieving regular-season perfection for the first time in more than two decades. The Rangers (9-0) now look ahead toward the playoffs, while the Cowboys' (2-7) season is over.
"One of our goals was to win the league," Mott said. "We had to get through a tough preseason — I don't think a lot thought we would run the table. But our kids stepped up every week and made it happen."
In the second half against Crook County, Estacada was able to get back to its overwhelming rushing attack. On the season seven different runners have found the endzone, and that trend continued in the regular season capper. The Rangers also recorded 500 yards of offense.
Quarterback James had two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, while Riedel had over 100 yards on the ground, two rushing touchdowns and another in the air.
On defense, the Rangers recorded three interceptions and were led by junior Dominic Nacoste, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive lineman that opposing offenses flee from. Against Crook, Nacoste had a pair of tackles for a loss and a sack.
"In the second half we got back to our old-school style," Mott said. "Crook was tough; they didn't want to go away."
Late in the fourth Crook County made a final surge with a flurry of scores, including two touchdowns in the final six minutes, but it wasn't enough to overcome the deficit.
With the win Estacada has etched its name into the record books.
"We are telling the kids we are in rare air — not a lot have done this," Mott said.
According to records, the last time the Rangers went undefeated through the regular season was in 1998 under head coach Roger Freeborn. This current Estacada team has now notched 14 straight wins in 2021 going back to last spring's COVID-truncated season.
That 1998 squad lost 36-6 to Central (Independence, Oregon) in the first round of playoffs. This year's team hopes to make it much further.
Coach Mott isn't mincing words — the Rangers want to make it all the way.
"We want to get to the state championship, and we think we can win it all," he said.
Heading into playoffs, No. 3 Estacada will face off at home against No. 14 Stayton Friday, Nov. 5. The two last met on Friday, Sept. 3, when the Rangers won 38-8. All together Estacada will have to win four more games in order to hoist the trophy at the end of the 2021 OSAA 4A Football State Championships.
Mt. Hood Conference schedule
Two local teams from the Mt. Hood Conference secured spots in the 6A Football State Championships. Sandy High School will host a home game as the No. 12 team in playoffs, while No. 19 Barlow will hit the road.
- No. 12 Sandy (7-2) vs. No. 21 Sherwood (5-4), Friday, Nov. 5, at Sandy High School.
- No. 14 Westview (8-1) vs No. 19 Barlow (6-4), Friday, Nov. 5, at Westview High School.
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