Forest Grove holds on for 24-21 Pigeon Bowl win over McMinnville
What a difference a year can make â€“ or in this case five months.
Forest Grove defeated McMinnville 24-21 in their annual "Pigeon Bowl" Friday night, Sept. 10, and in the process improved to 2-0 behind a stingy defense, an athletic young quarterback, and an aggressive mindset that has this team believing in what could be opposed to what's been in recent years.
"I want to be aggressive everywhere on the field," first-year head coach Dominic Ferraro said. "We definitely want to instill that attitude of being in attack mode, but ultimately these guys played with a lot of heart and a lot of energy, and that's why I think we won."
The Vikings dominated the first half, taking a 24-0 lead to the locker room thanks in part to sophomore quarterback Kaden Hale. The 6-foot-3 first-year starter rushed for 84 yards and threw for 66 yards more in the game's first two quarters, and twice connected for touchdowns through the air. Ferraro said the young signal-caller is a work in progress, but added that he's been impressed with what he's done to this point despite the limited time in which he's had to do it.
"He's got a ways to go, but he does a lot of really good things," Ferraro said. "He's kind of like a sponge and has been absorbing everything. Sure, he does some things that make me shake my head a little bit, but he's young and he's doing just fine."
Forest Grove took a 7-0 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter when they capped an eight play, 51-yard drive with a Hale to Trevor Cannon 25-yard touchdown strike.
Hale made it 10-0 when he connected on a 21-yard field goal six minutes later, and 17-0 when he again struck through the air, this time by way of a back-shoulder fade to junior Hunter Frohnert who made a nice adjustment at the front right pylon to put the home Vikings up by three scores.
McMinnville appeared to make it interesting on the ensuing drive when quarterback Ky Hoskinson hit sophomore receiver Gabe Blanco for a 35-yard touchdown strike. But a holding penalty took the points off the board, and on the ensuing play Forest Grove turned the tide when David Johnson intercepted Hoskinson and returned the ball 65 yards to paydirt, putting the Vikes up 24-0 following a successful Hale PAT.
Johnson â€“ who had been injured on Forest Grove's previous offensive possession â€“ spoke to being fatigued prior to the play and due to the injury, but said it was "awesome" to get the turnover and reach the endzone despite being a bit worn down.
"It was crazy," he said. "I mean, I was so tired and I'd hurt my knee just before, but I just ran and when I saw that cutback lane open, I just took it."
To their credit, McMinnville didn't quit. After stopping the Vikings on their initial series of the second half, the Grizzlies marched 61 yards on 11 plays and got on the board with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter when running back Austin Rapp pranced in from five yards out, pulling Mac to within 24-8 following a successful two-point conversion.
The Vikings appeared ready to answer on the ensuing possession when receiver Michael Yakos made a diving catch on a post pattern at the Grizzlies' 26-yardline. But a play later Forest Grove fumbled, and two plays after that McMinnville pulled within 24-14 when Rapp scored from seven yards out with 10:39 remaining on the clock. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Things got even more interesting five minutes later when Mac pulled within three when Hoskinson connected with Rapp on a swing pass that the junior took 27 yards for the Grizzlies third score of the game.
After a failed onside kick attempt, Forest Grove drove to McMinnville's 25-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
With the crowd on the edge of their seats and Mac poised to disappoint the Vikings faithful, the Forest Grove defense rose to the occasion once more, shutting the Grizzlies down thanks in large part to a second down sack by Jake Steltenpohl. Two incompletions later, the Vikes had their win despite a somewhat disappointing second half effort.
"We just couldn't run the ball in that second half," Ferraro said. "We struggled burning the clock, and with a pretty young team, it makes it hard when you're in second-and-long situations opposed to second-and-five. But we'll keep improving and we'll iron those things out."
Meanwhile, they're 2-0, but Ferraro said that while winning is a priority, it's not the priority, for at the end of the night it's not just about the scoreboard, but also about how you play the game.
"You know, you play to win, but I want these guys to represent our football program in a way that makes us proud," the coach said. "If that means we're competitive and maybe losing some games, well then that's okay. But, you know, I want to build some excitement and I want these guys to do things the right way. If you do that, the winning will take care of itself."
And is the new coach enjoying that process?
"I'm having a blast," he said. "These guys keep me on my toes, both good and bad. I've got a great coaching staff, there's a lot of administrative support, and I'm having fun."
Hale finished with 107 rushing yards and 132 passing yards, with two touchdown throws.
McMinnville's Hoskinson had 229 yards of total offense, while Rapp rushed for 69 yards and tallied 44 receiving yards for three total touchdowns.
Forest Grove hosts Scappoose at 4 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 18, at Forest Grove High School.
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