|#4 Central Catholic (11-2)|
|#9 Barlow (10-3)|
HILLSBORO — One big play in the first half turned the tide to send Central Catholic to a 35-7 win over Barlow in the 6A football semifinals Friday afternoon.
Barlow got the ball for the first time after Drake Payne cut in front of a receiver to break up a Rams' fourth-down pass at the goal line.
The Bruins took over at their own 2-yard line and put together a 20-play march dominated by running plays.
"We watched film and going right at them looked like the best way to attack — that's how Jesuit did it," Barlow QB Jaren Hunter said.
Halfback Nick Collins exploded through the middle for a 9-yard burst to get the Bruins' off the goal line, then powered through the middle to convert third-and-short. Collins broke loose for a 17-yard gain, the longest of the drive, to push the ball into Central Catholic territory.
The Bruins converted third down four times on the drive, setting up first-and-goal when Hunter kept the ball 3 yards around the right side to move the chains.
"We thought we could be physical with them," Barlow coach Terry Summerfield said. "We did everything right and wanted to get points out of it."
The game hit the quarter break, and Barlow's drive stalled when it returned to the field. A counter play was stopped at the line of scrimmage, and Central forced a fumble on the next snap. Barlow receiver Jackson Kane pounced on the loose ball to give the Bruins one more chance at the end zone.
That became trickier when a false start penalty backed the ball up 5 yards. An incomplete pass on third down, the only throw on the drive, brought out the kicking unit for a 29-yard field goal try.
Attempting his first varsity field goal, Barlow senior Derek Fontanell approached the ball and swung his leg through only to hear a second thump.
Central Catholic's Kimo Hiu flashed around the edge and dived low hands outstretched, blocking the kick as it came off the tee.
"We've been practicing that for weeks, and we needed to get a stop," Hiu said. "Everything fell into place, and I got my full right hand on the ball."
The ball took a hop off the turf and was scooped by Central's Miles Jackson, who didn't break stride on his way 80 yards to the end zone.
"It bounced right up to me, and I just kept running until I heard a whistle," Jackson said. "I never heard one — it was simple as that."
Barlow had traveled more than 90 yards down the field, but Central was on the scoreboard first with a 7-0 lead.
"They block the field goal and they score — holy smokes," Summerfield said.
Still, Barlow's game plan was proving effective.
Late into the first half, the Bruins held a 15:12 to 4:23 edge in time of possession and had run twice as many offensive plays.
"Central Catholic is such an explosive team, you can't let them touch the ball," Summerfield said.
Still, Central would add to its lead before halftime when long catches by Jordan King and Silas Starr moved the ball down the field, setting up Jackson for a wide-open 7-yard touchdown catch in the flat.
The Rams got the ball back with 25 seconds left in the half and went on the attack again. Cade Knighton hit Ethan Flynn for 23 yards, then zipped a throw into double coverage for Kalvin Souders who pulled down the catch while dragging his toes in bounds at the 1-yard line.
Barlow's defense stuffed two plays at the goal line, stacking up Knighton inches short as time expired in the half.
"Kids getting into the gaps, and just being tough. They got down and gritty and got the stop," Summerfield said. "We knew we were getting the ball in the second half, and that gave us a tremendous amount of confidence."
Barlow went to the air on its first play of the second half with Hunter finding Baggs for a 36-yard gain over the right side.
Central's defense put up a wall with Myles Broadous knocking down a pass on fourth-and-7 to end the threat.
"We needed to get on the board as fast as we possibly could. We just sputtered once we got down there," Summerfield said. "If we can get it down to seven points, maybe we can climb back into the game."
The Rams put the game away with three straight touchdown runs by Elijah Elliott — the highlight coming on a 77-yard dash down the sideline to put Central up 35-0 early in the fourth quarter.
Barlow gave its loud group of supporters reason to cheer when Hunter escaped heavy pressure, spinning out of a sack and flinging a deep ball toward the visitor's side pylon. Payne found a hole in the defense to make the catch, and with a pair of Rams closing in, he dived head first into the end zone for the 31-yard touchdown.
"I was looking downfield as the pocket collapsed. I felt people on my legs, but I made a spin and my linemen held their blocks to give me time. I pointed Drake to go deep, and he made a great catch."
Hunter completed 22 of 34 passes for 274 yards with Baggs leading the receivers with 87 yards on five catches. Collins led the Bruins' ground game with 14 carries for 63 yards.
Josh Nomie was named Barlow's Outstanding Player of the Game, finishing with 104 all-purpose yards, while also leading the defense with 11 tackles.
Elliott was named Central's Outstanding Player, picking up 151 yards on 15 carries and finding the end zone three times. Central QB Knighton completed 12 of 20 throws for 207 yards.
Central Catholic advances to face Lake Oswego for the 6A title at 12 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. This marks the fourth time in the past seven years that the Rams have reached the final.
Barlow ends its season with a 10-3 record, making only the second trip to the semifinals in school history.
"This has been such a resilient group with great senior leaders — this team has been a joy to coach," Summerfield said. "This has been a season they will remember for the rest of their lives."
View photos at ...
BARLOW 0 0 0 7 — 7
C. CATHOLIC 0 13 15 7 — 35
CC — Miles Jackson 80 blocked kick return (Emiliano Mondragon kick), 9:52
CC — Jackson 7 pass from Cade Knighton (kick missed), 1:19
Drive: 9 plays, 69 yards, 3:06. Key plays: Jordan King 23 catch on 3rd-and-1; Silas Starr 25 catch.
CC — Elijah Elliott 7 run (Elliott run), 6:27.
Drive: 10 plays, 69 yards, 3:37. Key plays: Elliott 11 run; Jackson 9 run on 3rd-and-3; Silas Starr 29 catch.
CC — Elliott 7 run (Mondragon kick), 0:13.
Drive: 2 plays, 2 yards, 0:46. Key play: Kalvin Souders 20 interception return.
CC — Elliott 77 run (Mondragon kick), 9:24
Drive: 1 play, 77 yards, 0:12.
BAR — Drake Payne 31 pass from Jaren Hunter (Derek Fortanell kick), 7:03.
Drive: 7 plays, 75 yards, 2:21. Key plays: Joe MacDonald 13 catch; Drake Payne 12 catch on 3rd-and-4.
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