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The 2023 senior class leaves a legacy for the Vikings after a breakout season and 2A semifinal appearance.

PMG PHOTO: AUSTIN WHITE - Colton football's Jeb Ethington runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Weston-McEwen in the 2A state semifinals Nov. 19, 2022, at Barlow High School.

Like the breeze blowing through Barlow High School, the Colton High School football team went cold in the second half Saturday afternoon, Nov. 19.

After going into halftime up 22-6 on No. 7 Weston-McEwen/Griswold in the 2A state semifinals, the Vikings offense could only muster one late score while the TigerScots figured it out offensively to the tune of four touchdowns.

The TigerScots return to the 2A title game for the first time since 1996 while the Vikings are still looking to break their own streak of 39 years, their last appearance coming in 1983.

The cliche tale of two halves was alive and well for the Vikings, who struggled to contain TigerScots quarterback Easton Berry in the second half.

The sophomore finished with 17 carries for 81 yards and three touchdowns while also going 8 for 17 for 202 yards with one pick and one touchdown.

"He was just scrambling, and I think that was the deal, to scramble around and find his receivers open from our mistakes," Colton head coach Jason Stewart said. "Our DBs got scattered out. The first half they couldn't find anybody and in the second half they started finding them."

The first half went well for the Vikings, who scored three times on the ground, starting with a 15-yard Rickie Hendrickson run on their first possession.

The TigerScots responded in the second quarter with a 19-yard TD run by Maddox King, but Colton took over from there.

Jeb Ethington started breaking out, including a 39-yard TD to help put Colton up 16-6 after the 2-point conversion succeeded. Colton then recovered the ensuing kickoff on short kick and Ethington found the end zone again a couple minutes later to push the lead to 22-6 going into halftime.

In the third though, the lanes started to close for Ethington and the other Viking runners in their wing-T formation.

PMG PHOTO: AUSTIN WHITE - Colton football's Jeb Ethington leaps over a Weston-McEwen defender during the 2A state semifinals Nov. 19 at Barlow High School.

"I saw a lot of change on the defense," Ethington said of the second half. "A lot of my guys got their block in well, but then another guy would come in and they just weren't ready for it. I also wasn't ready for it and would make a bad call rather than shooting another gap."

The comeback began when Berry hit King on a 91-yard touchdown pass on the TigerScots first possession of the half that actually was pushed back 11 yards on the first play to their own 9-yard line.

Weston-McEwen forced a turnover on downs and scored on their next possession on a 5-yard Berry run, bringing the game to 22-18 with 4:18 to go in the third quarter.

Colton's defense started to hold up from there, including the second interception of the day coming from Shade Starr close to the end of the third frame.

The Vikings drive stalled out once more at midfield and the TigerScots took five minutes off the clock before Berry plunged in from four yards out to put Weston-McEwen up 25-22 with 3:58 to go.

The Vikings weren't going to let the chance at a trip to a state final slip away that easily as Ben Ben Behrens took a ball to the right side from the 50-yard line and took it to the house. Behren has been out the past few weeks with a concussion, making the touchdown that much sweeter and giving Colton a 30-25 lead.

But with 2:38 still on the clock, Berry took over and scrambled his way down the field to lead the TigerScots to a touchdown with only nine seconds left, pushing the lead to 31-30 and eventually the final score.

"It was hard because it wasn't so much we were messing up, it was just they started doing so good," Ethington said. "They started making great plays and making great decisions and that's what killed us in the end. I don't think we failed, I think they succeeded, and I'll take that any day."

PMG PHOTO: AUSTIN WHITE - Colton quarterback Wyatt Holliday (9) talks with his head coach Jason Stewart before a 2-point conversion attempt against Weston-McEwen in the 2A state semifinals Nov. 19 at Barlow High School.

This run the Vikings have been on isn't something the Colton community hasn't seen any day. Years spent in 2A playing 11-man saw mixed results to say the least.

But dropping to the 9-man game in 2A, plus a talented senior class of 15 players, pushed the Vikings to put Colton on the map for Oregon high school football.

"I'm super proud of my guys because I think our class was always a little overlooked," Ethington said. "It's nice because we were the seniors this year and to be able to take charge like that and see all of my teammates take leadership of their roles and the guys who are playing in the same position as them. Being able to coach them up and perform so well."

The seniors have certainly set a new foundation going forward for Colton football, which wants 2022 to be a beginning rather than a blip.

"We have a good system, they believe in it, and the family and community is behind us," Stewart said. "We're gonna keep the system that we have and try to get back here every year. It doesn't matter if we have 15 seniors or two seniors, we run the same system we run. … We'll probably spend more time on secondary and defense."

That's about the only area that might need improvement as the Vikings head to the offseason.

Despite falling short of the title game, Ethington is proud of the legacy his 2023 class has left behind with this final season.

"Just a legacy of iron-man football, that's what we call it," Ethington said. "It's just a hard-hitting, heavy-running football team. And to be able to take the punches and throw them back."

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