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Rangers 'hold heads high' after struggles to find offensive rhythm, contain Spartans

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Estacada senior Jake Behrman scored the lone touchdown for the Rangers in a 42-8 loss in the semifinals of the playoffs. As the seconds ticked away on an historic Estacada football season and some players seemed to sag emotionally, the Rangers crowd took to its feet for one last standing ovation.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Estacada Coach Andy Mott said this is the best season of football he has ever experienced. Even though things hadn't gone to plan for the Rangers in the 2021 OSAA 4A Football State Championships semifinals against Marist Catholic, with a difficult second half that saw the score balloon out-of-control, the mantra was "hold your heads high."

It might take some time — months, perhaps years — but eventually this Estacada team will be able to celebrate a season that hasn't been matched in seven decades.

"You can't change (the score), and it's going to hurt, it's going to sting for a while," Coach Andy Mott told his team after the loss. "I love you guys, and I can't ask for any more than you gave."

Estacada was upset 42-8 by Marist Saturday evening, Nov. 20, at McMinnville High School. The loss snapped an undefeated season, and kept the Rangers one game shy of a state championship appearance.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Estacada junior quarterback Cory James.  "When you look back on this season you are going to be proud," Mott said. "This is the best season I have ever had as a coach."

The game started out in classic Estacada football fashion — run the ball up the middle and dare the defense to make a play. The Rangers got rolling early with some brutal runs by senior Jake Behrman, who kept his legs pumping and dragged several Marist defenders across the field.

With 6:11 left in the first quarter, on the Rangers' opening drive, Behrman punched it in from 1 yard out. That was followed by a 2-point conversion by junior running back Waylon Riedel. It was a drive indicative of what brought the Rangers so much success this year — a methodical march down the field.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Ranger junior Waylon Riedel runs the ball during a tough 42-8 loss against Marist Catholic. But it was also the last time Estacada would find the end zone.

In the second quarter Marist was knocking on the door in search of an answering score when Estacada junior defensive lineman Andrew Turner hauled in an interception on an attempted screen. On the subsequent drive Estacada gave the ball back after a fumble by junior quarterback Cory James.

With that good field position and a 35-yard catch between senior quarterback Carter Greene and senior wide receiver Conner Chase, Marist found itself in the red zone. Senior running back Lucas Tuski scored on a 6-yard run, but the Spartans failed on a 2-point conversion.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Rangers fell short in the 4A Football semifinals Saturday, Nov. 20, against Marist Catholic. Estacada looked to answer with a drive late in the first half, but James threw an interception after a scramble and heave into the end zone.

The Rangers went into the break with a tenuous 8-6 lead, but in the second half things went off the rails.

Marist started to move the ball and score in a multitude of ways. The star was Tuski, who picked up steam as the game went on. He is a balanced runner with strong footwork and the ability to break away with speed in the open field. Estacada did a good job wrapping him up early in the game, but as the Rangers' legs got tired and frustrations bubbled to the surface, Tuski piled up big plays.

He scored three times second half, including a back-breaking 23-yard scamper that was the penultimate touchdown of the game.

The Spartans also scored on a 10-yard scramble by Greene, who trucked his way into the endzone, and a 20-yard end-around by senior wide receiver Ryan Cary.

On offense, Estacada saw too many promising drives stalled in third- and fourth-and-longs, as a massive defensive line for the Spartans proved too difficult to move out of the way for the running game.

"This was such a weird year for our seniors, coming off COVID and the shortened spring season," Mott said. "They brought leadership and toughness that won't be easy to replace."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Estacada coaching staff is confident this team will find more success in the coming years. Despite this loss, this is an Estacada program with a bright future. There are plenty of returning stars on both sides of the ball, and Mott is looking forward to what is to come.

"This was a huge game for our younger players," Mott said. "This brought a lot of experience, and hopefully it will have them hungry to get back to this stage next year."

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