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Size, defense, ground game help visitors improve to 3-0 in Class 5A Special District 1 football

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Scappoose High School's Connor McNabb (44) runs through a tackle by the Spartans' Tristin Keffer during an OSAA football game at Hare Field in Hillsboro, Ore., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.HILLSBORO — Scappoose was solid on both sides of the ball, and Hillsboro struggled to put much together.

That combination added up to a 39-14 win for the visiting Indians at Hare Field on Friday night.

Scappoose's defense shut down the Spartans' big-play threats, for the most part, and the Indians used their bigger lines and physicality to take control on both sides of the ball.

"We did things well enough to win," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb said. "Hillsboro had some good skill kids. The game plan was to take them out, and to be physical."

The Indians improved to 3-0, including 2-0 in their first year up a classification and in the Oregon School Actitivies Association's new Class 5A Special District 1 for football.

Hillsboro fell to 1-2, 1-1 in league play.

"It wasn't much of a game plan for us to begin with, and poor fundamentals got to us as the game went on," Spartans coach Dan Shuff said. "We couldn't block, we couldn't catch, we couldn't tackle. Can't win football games that way."

Behind an offensive line that averages about 250 pounds per man, Scappoose ran 385 yards, 7.3 per carry.

The Indians, ranked seventh in this week's 5A coaches poll, also have three big, hard-running backs in Matthew Roth, Quincy Cleveland and Connor McNabb.

McNabb, the smallest of the trio at 190 pounds, finished with 22 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns on the ground (and one TD receiving). He had 177 yards rushing in the first half, on 14 attempts.

"We're very blessed," Coach McNabb said. "We are good up front. And we have three backs who are good size and can wear down a defense."

Cleveland, a 230-pounder, came in for 44 second-half rushing yards.

"It was a great game, a great battle," Cleveland said. "You have to give it up to the O-line. They did a great job blocking."

Scappoose's defense was just as important, especially early.

Neither team scored in the first quarter, and the Indians held the Spartans to 72 first-half yards. Hillsboro managed just three yards on the ground as Scappoose built an 18-7 halftime advantage.

"Defense set the tone," said quarterback/safety Jakobi Kessi, who was among the Indians making hard hits.

Scappoose wound up with 567 yards of total offense.

Kessi, a 200-pounder, completed 13 of 22 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, two to 6-6 wide receiver Gavin Larson.

"Gavin's fun to throw to, because he's pretty tall. I can just put it up there and I know he'll come down with it," Kessi said.

Hillsboro ended up with 82 yards on 31 rushes, plus 130 yards passing (for 212 total offense).

Scappoose came away with three interceptions, one each by linebacker Roth, defensive back Blake Morkert and linebacker Slater Smiens.

"We were super amped, and we lost our focus, and that caused some mistakes," Hillsboro coach Shuff said. "Scappoose is a good team, well-coached. They came out well-prepared. I think we could have hung with them a whole lot better than we did, though. We killed ourselves way too many times."

Bad snaps and dropped passes were among the things that hurt the Spartans.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro High School's Thomas Johnson (21) during an OSAA football game at Hare Field in Hillsboro, Ore., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
"Just about every ball we dropped was a first down, and that killed our momentum," Shuff said.

Connor McNabb scored the opening touchdown on the first play of the second quarter when he took a pitch right and made a cut back to the inside on a 20-yard run.

"I don't remember the play. I just remember being in the end zone," he said.

Scappoose's next possession was a three-play, 80-yard drive. McNabb covered the final 69 yards on a run in which he also cut back from the right edge and wound up in the left corner of the end zone, after slicing through the middle of the field and the Spartans' defense.

"I was cramping up a little on that one," McNabb said.

Hillsboro cut its deficit to 12-7 midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Kane Kiaunis hit fellow junior Daniel Popovych with a 12-yard slant pass for the touchdown.

"Great concentration by a young kid," Shuff said.

The Indians scored a couple of minutes later on Kessi's 21-yard flip to Dawson in the back right corner of the end zone.

Scappoose nearly scored again before intermission, but Kessi's head-first dive on a fourth-and-goal run from the 11 came up a half-yard short when he was met by two Spartan defenders.

Hillsboro came out strong to open the second half. Kiaunis found wideout Elian Lopez-Arana for 24 yards to get across midfield. Two plays later, speedy back Thomas Johnson got to the corner and then outraced any angle the secondary might have had on him for a 38-yard touchdown run.

But Scappoose, its lead trimmed to 18-14, reasserted itself after the ensuing kickoff.

It didn't help Hillsboro that the Spartans jumped offside on fourth-and-1 at the Indians' 38-yard line.

On the next play, Kessi fired a pass to McNabb at the sideline, and he went through the parted waves to complete a 57-yard TD play.

"The receivers did a great job blocking," McNabb said.

"We basically get a three-and-out but jump offside, and then we blow coverage on a play we'd been practicing on all week," Shuff said.

Scappoose's other two touchdowns came in the third quarter as well.

The first of the two came after Smiens' interception inside the Hillsboro 10; he returned the pick to the 1, and Cleveland slammed across the goal line on the next snap.

"The backfield was empty, so I knew it was going to be a pass play," the 6-5 Smiens said. "I was thinking it was going to be a screen. I saw Connor out to the side, so I knew he had the screen covered. So I started backpedaling. I saw the quarterback's eyes go to the left and then look back to the right, so I kept backpedaling, back to where his eyes were. He tossed it up, and I was tall enough to get it. Doesn't happen very often. Cool experience. Perfect spot."

A 71-yard drive gave the Indians their final points. Kessi passed over the middle to Larson from 28 yards to make the score 39-14.

The game was Scappoose's first on the road this season. The Indians had beaten Astoria (27-0) and Forest Grove (44-32) at home.

"Got a lot of things we need to fix," Coach McNabb said, "but wins are great, and to get one on the road and against a team we'd never played before was great. We had a lot of unknowns coming in.

"We have a lot of things we need to fix, but I like our heart, I like our attitude, and I like that we played hard from start to finish."

Scappoose's next game will be a Friday, Sept. 21 showdown at home against another new league rival, Pendleton.

The Buckaroos also are 3-0, and will be coming off a 56-14 win at Putnam, after beating La Grande 38-12 in their opener and Hood River Valley, 46-0.

Pendleton is 2-0 in the 5A Special District East Division; Scappoose and Wilsonville are the only unbeaten teams in the West Division.

"Pendleton's tough. They're going to be the best team we've played so far," Coach McNabb said.

Hillsboro will play next Friday at Wilsonville, which is 3-0 and has scored 53, 57 and 49 points in victories over Crater, Churchill and Cleveland. The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in this week's 5A coaches poll.

"Got to step up to the challenge and be ready to play," Shuff said. "We've got to go back and start hammering away at the fundamentals, keep practicing, and get better at them. And we've got to keep our wits about us, which we didn't do tonight.

"It's going to click for us, and when it does, we'll be pretty tough."

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