The Buckaroos blank the Cougars 38-0 in the first half of season-opening 54-20 victory

SETH GORDON, THE NEWBERG GRAPHIC - St. Paul senior Jaidyn Jackson breaks into the open during the Bucks' 54-20 home win over Wallowa Friday night. ST. PAUL -- St. Paul made a statement in its first game back in the 1A classification, routing Wallowa 54-20 at home Friday night at the rodeo grounds.

The Bucks jumped out to an early 8-0 after scoring on its opening possession, but the Cougars, who went 9-3 and advanced to the 1A quarterfinals in 2017, intercepted a T.J. Crawford pass to stamp out St. Paul's second possession.

Wallowa was turned away on downs on its first possession and drove deep into Bucks territory on its second, but the St. Paul defense stuffed a sweep on fourth down and 1 from its own 19-yard line to end the threat.

SPHS coach Tony Smith's team ate up the final 4:15 of the first quarter with a 14-play drive before Justin Herberger scored a nine-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to make it 16-0.

It was all gravy from there for the Bucks, who forced back-to-back punts and secured a Rawley Koch interception to turn Wallowa back on its next three possessions. St. Paul responded with a touchdown drive each time to push the advantage to 38-0 at halftime.

"We started off extremely well," Crawford said. "We shoved 'em in the dirt and got on up on 'em."

Crawford, who made his first start at quarterback after contributing primarily on defense as a sophomore, credited the offensive line for powering the outburst in the second quarter. The Bucks followed up with a nine-yard scoring run by Saul Martinez on their first possession of the third quarter to make it 46-0 and engage the running clock, after which St. Paul began substituting liberally.

"They work tremendously hard," Crawford said of the line. "They're the powerhouse of our whole team. All credit goes to them because without them, we can't do anything as backs."

It wasn't until late in the third that Wallowa (0-1) broke through offensively, as quarterback Gus Ramsden broke free on a scramble and rumbled 64 yards for a touchdown to make it 46-6. St. Paul answered with a touchdown run by reserve running back Jaden Thompson in the fourth quarter before the Cougars added two late scores.

"I'm extremely happy about how everybody played," Crawford said of the defense. "Even the guys that didn't start, they came in, did their best and accomplished something. There were plays when we had to run 60-plus yards to catch (Wallowa) at the one. It shows our effort. It shows our pride."

The Bucks (1-0) are a hungry team after being ranked No. 1 in 2A for pretty much the whole 2017 season before being upset by No. 5 Santiam in the state semifinals, but were also sharp in their first eight-man game in four years.

"We have high hopes, high hopes to climb the mountain," Crawford said. "We're starting the climb, which is kind of what we do. We have a tradition and we're keeping it up."

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