Clackamas football rides Blake Baker's hot hand to 35-24 win over Sherwood
The Sherwood Bowmen didn't have enough answers for Clackamas quarterback Blake Baker and the Cavaliers' big-play passing attack on Friday night.
Baker threw for 293 yards and four first-half touchdowns, leading the Cavaliers to a 34-25 non-conference victory over the Bowmen at Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley.
The game had been scheduled to be played at Clackamas High School, but was moved to a nearby neutral site after a Friday afternoon fire knocked out power at the Cavaliers' home field and much of the surrounding neighborhood.
The change in venue did little to slow down Clackamas to start the game as the Cavaliers scored on four of their first five possessions with Baker connecting on touchdown passes of 70, 25, 65, and 30 yards to jump out to a 26-7 halftime lead.
"Early on, we made a lot of big plays," said Baker, the Cavs' 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior. "Once we get rolling, we're a really good team and we're really hard to beat.
"My receiving corps — Cooper Beltz, AJ Perez, Keontae Johnson-Gibson — I consider the greatest wide receiving corps in Oregon. Those guys are really good and when you get the ball in their hands, they make big plays happen."
Toss in Kaden Bartdness' 99-yard fumble return for another Clackamas touchdown that helped push the lead to 34-7 with 5:45 to play in the third quarter, and the Cavaliers had Sherwood in a hole that was too deep for the Bowmen to climb out of.
"It came down to intensity," Cavaliers coach James Holan said as his team bounced back from a season-opening 31-28 loss at Westview. "We were not at the level that we needed to be last week, and we talked a lot about finishing and going 100%, not 95%. I think that was the biggest difference."
The game plan appeared almost flawless to start the game as the Cavaliers jumped out to a 19-point lead before the end of the second quarter, doing almost all of their damage on big plays through the air.
"That's who we are," Holan said. "That's what we do at Clackamas right now — we throw the football. We've got a special group of receivers. We've got a special trigger man. When we need to run the ball, we're confident in our linemen that we can get it done. And we're going to attack space. That's what we do."
On Clackamas' opening drive, the Cavaliers went 80 yards in four plays, capped by a short Baker-to-Johnson-Gibson pass that Johnson-Gibson turned into a 70-yard score.
Just when it looked as if Johnson-Gibson was stopped near midfield, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound wide receiver broke a tackle, put his free hand on the ground to keep his knee from touching the ground, and kept his feet moving at the same time almost everyone else on the field stopped.
"I knew I wasn't down, so I kept running," Johnson-Gibson said. "I kind of have this dog in me. I didn't want to go down, so I stayed up and ran it to the house.
"After that, we had momentum, our team was really feeling it, we hit our stride, our quarterback knew what he was doing, and he got the ball to the people we needed to."
Baker piled on with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Perez, a 65-yard scoring strike to Johnson-Gibson, and a 30-yard TD pass to Beltz before the end of the half.
Game over at halftime? Not quite.
Sherwood got a defensive stop to open the second half and then the Bowmen were on the verge of scoring when the Cavaliers knocked the ball loose from wide receiver Evan Morris at the goal line. Bartdness, the Cavs' junior linebacker, scooped up the loose ball and dashed the length of the field along the near sideline and in front of the Clackamas bench.
From the Bowmen's perspective, that one hurt.
"We didn't come ready to play," Bowmen coach Mark Gribble said. "A couple of drives there, we put ourselves in bad situations, made some mistakes, and Clackamas capitalized on them. They're a good team."
Going in, the Bowmen expected Clackamas to put the ball in the air, but they struggled to put consistent pressure on Baker and then they struggled to wrap their arms around some of the Cavaliers' receivers.
"We just didn't tackle well," Gribble said. "We knew what was coming. Clackamas does a good job running that offense, they've got some weapons over there, and you've got to be on your 'A' game to be able to compete with them."
Sherwood never quit. Among the second-half highlights for the Bowmen was a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kasen Covert to Oliver Fisher, a 28-yard TD pass from Covert to Alex Kelton, and a 2-yard touchdown run by Aiden Owens that made it 34-25 with 2:56 to play.
"I saw a lot of our kids really buckle down and start to battle," Gribble said. "We moved the ball on them a little bit and we didn't have the mistakes that we had in the first half.
"The season's not over in week two. There's a long road ahead of us. We've got to be able to process this one and learn from the mistakes so we don't duplicate them again, and that, in the end, will make us a better, more-seasoned team."
Sherwood ran a total of 66 plays and finished with 417 yards of offense with one turnover. Clackamas ran 59 plays for 325 yards and no turnovers.
Nick Gribble had a game-high 108 yards on 13 carries for the Bowmen, Owens added 48 yards on eight carries, and Covert completed 12 of 21 passes for 136 yards. Covert also scored Sherwood's only first-half touchdown on an 11-yard run that made it 12-7 with 9:50 left in the second quarter.
For the Cavaliers, Baker completed 14 of 27 passes for 293 yards, connecting with six different receivers. Perez had four receptions for 43 yards, Beltz caught four passes for 36 yards, and Johnson-Gibson finished with two catches for 135 yards. Joey Giancola also caught a 60-yard pass from Baker during a fourth-quarter drive that stalled at the Sherwood 18.
"We've still got plenty to work on, obviously in the second half," said Holan, whose offense came away empty on four second-half possessions. "We can't just crumble like that. We've got to find a way to finish games, because we can't get into situations like this where the game is close at the end every time.
"I don't want to make any excuses for our guys. I think they know that they need to play better, they need to finish, and at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. And I think as coaches, we can also look at what we're doing and have a better plan for the second half.
"Again, it's not about them, it's about us. That will always be our mantra as long as I'm here."
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