At the Molalla-Milwaukie football game Friday, Sept. 16, the flags flew consistently over four quarters. Ultimately it was the road team walking away with a 20-14 win over Molalla, but it was by no means a pretty affair.
Both sides combined for more than 40 penalties in the game. Molalla head coach Sean McElhaney believed that penalties from the Milwaukie side of the field went unchecked early on and rolled as the game continued. And yet despite the setbacks, it was Molalla that nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
After heading into the fourth quarter down 20-0, Molalla junior Ben Olsen picked off the Milwaukie quarterback to set his team up with 11:46 in the game. Four plays later, Molalla quarterback Mason King connected with senior wide receiver Brandon Martin for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
"It's kind of a new wrinkle," Molalla head coach Sean McElhaney said of his wide receiver. "Brandon transferred to Molalla, and he's just kind of started coming into his own now, and we're looking forward to it."
After holding the Milwaukie offense out of the end zone for nine minutes, King and Martin once again connected on a deep touchdown pass down the right sideline, this time from 53 yards out and with 51.9 seconds to go in the game.
Molalla once again forced the Milwaukie offense to punt the ball away, and with 30 seconds to go, focused on the end zone. After a series of snaps that failed to score, Molalla quarterback King looked into the right corner of the end zone trying to score once more, only to have the ball picked by Milwaukie defensive back Jayden Robertson.
Now sitting at 0-3 on the season, Molalla looks at the game as something they could learn from. They showed they could compete late into a game and that's something to build on, according to McElhaney.
"This last quarter, you have to have some success," McElhaney said. "Now we've had some success. They start seeing that we can do this. 'Why don't we play the first quarter like we played the fourth quarter?' We are in shape. You can tell (Milwaukie) was pretty gassed. We need to use that to our advantage. It's a confidence thing."
Molalla takes to the road next week to face off against La Grande (1-2) on Friday, Sept. 23. One of the things McElhaney and his staff want to do in that final nonleague game is grow in depth at the running back position to help junior Ben Olsen.
"Ben is the heart of our defense, he's our middle linebacker and he plays through a lot of pain," McElhaney said. "He's got some bad knees genetically and he's all over the place. Best linebacker I've ever seen. He does (run), we need to get him a break. I think it's hard for him to go both ways, so we've got to find a couple other kids to step up and be running backs."
La Grande will be an interesting test for the running back corps. The Tigers have alternated wins and losses so far this season, sandwiching a sound victory over Ontario with defeats to Idaho's Weiser and Estacada.
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