Fumble, blocked punt leads to lopsided Molalla loss in Class 4A non-league showdown

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - An Estacada defender strips the ball way from Molalla quarterback Isaac Thomas-Klementis.

ESTACADA — Molalla's offense could not be stopped on its first two drives.

But a fumble in the Indians own end zone, followed by a blocked punt, gave the momentum to Estacada and the Rangers never let it go as they rolled past Molalla 40-13 Friday in a Class 4A non-league showdown.

As much as the turnovers hurt the Indians chances of winning on the road, Molalla coach Sean McElhaney said his team's growing number of injuries were even more costly.

"At one point I didn't recognize half the defense," McElhaney said. "We're really thin on numbers, so when we have that many people go down... We were missing about eight guys and then in this game we were without about five more. That's a lot of people when you only have 40 to start with. We have very little varsity experience. It's going to be tough for us until we get those guys back."

The Indians opened the game by recovering a short kickoff. On fourth down, quarterback Isaac Thomas-Klementis then scrambled for a 24-yard touchdown run.

Estacada answered with its own touchdown on fourth down as quarterback Isaiah Schaffer ran untouched into the end zone for a 14-yard score.

After Molalla's defense stopped the Rangers' two-point try, Thomas-Klementis connected with Jacob Nix for a 47-yard gain. Damian Pingo then scored a 3-yard touchdown to extend the Indians lead to 13-6.

But after Schaffer answered with a 5-yard touchdown run, Molalla began shooting itself in the foot.

On third-and-long after a holding penalty, Thomas-Klementis coughed up the football and Estacada freshman lineman Dominic Nacoste recovered the ball in the end zone to give the Rangers a 20-13 lead.

"(Estacada lineman) Conner McNulty almost had it, but it popped out and I just jumped on it in the end zone," Nacoste said. "I was in a good spot. We have really big hearts so we never get down on ourselves and we just keep going no matter what."

Estacada linebacker Justin Lang then blocked Molalla's punt and the Rangers' offense took over inside the Indians' 7-yard line.

Two plays later, Sam Garrison reached the end zone on a 1-yard run to extend Estacada's lead to 28-13 with 8:51 remaining in the first half.

"At some point you start feeling like things are against you," McElhaney said.

The Indians struggles continued into the second half.

A bad snap on a punt again gave Estacada the ball deep inside Molalla territory and led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Schaffer.

At lineback, Schaffer then tipped a Thomas-Klementis pass in the air and into the arms of Nacoste.

One play later, Garrison added a 5-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring.

"We started off pretty slow," Garrison said. "We got a little fire in us and just came back and punched them in the mouth. We came out a little cocky and thought they weren't good enough to do anything to us. They caught us off guard. They haven't beat us in the past four years. It's a big thing for the seniors."

Garrison, a senior, rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries. Schaffer, a junior, had 80 yards on nine attempts. He also completed two passes for 53 yards.

"Estacada has lots of seniors, lots of really experienced guys," McElhaney said. "This was tough for us. We're still learning. We're playing a lot of sophomores. We're not a seasoned team. We just have to get better at practice and hopefully heal some kids."

Playing from behind, Molalla was forced to throw the ball.

In his second varsity start, Thomas-Klementis completed 3 of 15 passes for 70 yards.

"We want to be a run team," McElhaney said. "We missed some passes and had drops. We had people open, a lot of the plays were there. He's (Thomas-Klementis) a sophomore and he's going to get a lot better."

Pingo led the Indians on the ground, finishing with 97 yards on 15 carries.

Molalla (0-2) hosts Woodburn (1-1) Friday, Sept. 20 in its home opener.

"If we get some of those (injured) players back, I think our next couple of games will be hopefully different than these last two," McElhaney said.

Derek Wiley
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