On the second drive of the game, Estacada football dug in and made its mark after a slow start out of the gates.
The Rangers, powered by a historic regular season and aspirations of a championship, first had to churn their way into the end zone against Stayton while playing in front of a raucous home crowd Friday evening, Nov. 5. Orchestrated by junior quarterback Cory James, the Rangers' daunting runners started darting north to south, running over Eagles tacklers and moving the chains.
That drive was capped by a 15-yard keeper from James around the left end. It was the first of his three touchdowns on the night, all coming in the first half, and led to an eventual Estacada shutout in round one of the OSAA 4A State Playoffs.
"It feels really good to get this win, but we got to stay focused," James said. "This coming week it's about practicing hard, watching film, staying out of trouble, and being back out here on Friday."
The No. 3 Rangers bested No. 14 Stayton 37-0 to advance to the second round of state, where they will face No. 6 La Grande who beat Gladstone 34-12.
"The regular season was awesome, but this was another week one for us," said coach Andy Mott. "It was huge to open things up with that win."
This was the second time the two squads have faced off this season. Their first bout was two months ago, when Estacada beat Stayton 38-8 in the season opener.
"When we play someone for the second time there is a familiarity, and Stayton was able to stop some things we took advantage of the first time around," Mott said. "That could be the case next week against La Grande."
Like they have all season, Estacada leaned on the run to beat the Eagles. Junior runningback Waylon Riedel had a pair of 2-point conversions; senior Jake Behrman rumbled in for a touchdown late in the third, dragging along two defenders; and junior Payton Matney scored one final touchdown late in the fourth. Anytime it felt like the Eagles might regain some momentum, those long, churning drives both killed the clock and the legs of the defense.
The Estacada offensive line looked strong as well. The grass field was muddy, and as the game went on, footing became difficult. But the line used that to their advantage, leveraging blocks and getting their runners open holes.
"The line did what they normally do — get muddy and move people out of the way," James said.
The Rangers defense also held up, getting timely sacks and turnovers to prevent the Eagles from finding pay dirt. In the second quarter, with Stayton in the redzone, Estacada was able to secure a sack and fumble recovery. Junior defensive lineman Dominic Nacoste had a twisting sack in the waning seconds of the first half, while junior corner Tucker Jackson snagged a pick in the second that deflated a Stayton drive.
With the playoff win, Estacada already has bested the previous team to go undefeated in the regular season. The last time the Rangers went 9-0 before this year was in 1998 under head coach Roger Freeborn, but that team lost in the first round.
Instead the 2021 Rangers want to follow in the footsteps of the 1953 football team, the only group to make it all the way to the championship game — a game they lost, coming in second.
But just like every week, this team is taking things one step at a time.
The Rangers will be back out at home Friday, Nov. 12, for the second round of playoffs.
Mt. Hood Conference results
• No. 8 Clackamas 31, No. 25 Sunset 18
• No. 21 Sherwood 51, No. 12 Sandy 32
• No. 4 Central Catholic 49, No. 29 Oregon City 0
• No. 14 Westview 57, No. 19 Barlow 34
• No. 18 South Salem 40, No. 15 David Douglas 27
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