BEAVERTON — Dominating much of the game with its ground and pound approach, the Newberg High School football team survived a fourth quarter surge to defeat Mountainside 34-28 on the road Friday night.
The Tigers (5-0) finished their regular season undefeated and will cap a shortened campaign with a bowl game next week.
"Even though we knew we would have six games going into the season, we didn't take it different than any other season," NHS coach Kevin Hastin said. "We approached it full throttle and we wanted to get after it from the get-go. For our senior class to go 5-0 and have a huge game coming up to finish their season is a great opportunity."
Newberg opened up the scoring in the first quarter with a three-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Hudson Davis to make it 7-0. After holding off the Mavericks' offense on the previous drive, Newberg chewed up plenty of clock on its opening series en route to the score.
Early in the second quarter, Newberg got another stop before picking up the pace a bit on offense. The Tigers still relied heavily on their strong run game, finishing off a strong drive with a two-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Price Pothier.
It took just 21 seconds for Mountainside to respond with its first score of the game, introducing a talented quarterback-wide receiver duo that would cause the Tiger defense issues all night. Junior Brian Mannion threw a deep ball to senior Sammy Cohen for a 65-yard score to make it 14-7 Newberg at that point.
Later in the quarter, after another strong drive filled with chunk plays, Pothier found the end zone again on his biggest run of the night to that point. The gritty back found the edge and bowled over would-be tacklers on his way to a 39-yard touchdown. It was 21-7 Newberg four minutes into the second frame.
The Tigers would tack on one more score before the half: a pretty throw from junior quarterback Levi Durrell to junior running back Grant Dickenson for 33 yards to paydirt. Mountainside had more to say before both teams went to break, though, reaching the end zone on a one-handed snag by Cohen to make it just 28-13 Tigers after a missed extra point.
Newberg came out strong in the third quarter and appeared to take full control of the game on another 39-yard touchdown run by Pothier. A missed extra point by the Tigers made it 34-13 through three, but the scent of a potential comeback still hung in the air for the home team.
The Mavericks followed their proverbial nose to a stunning 98-yard touchdown pass from Mannion to senior Andrew Simpson, the longest play Newberg's stout defense had given up all season by far. A two-point conversion made it 34-21.
After a drive in which the Tiger offense was held in check, Mountainside marched down the field to score again, this time on a pass from Mannion to senior Parker Groth in the corner of the end zone. The Mavericks trailed by just six with more than eight minutes to go and momentum on their side.
"Mountainside tightened up and played some tough defense in the second half," Hastin said. "Hat's off to them for not rolling over. We made some mistakes. We knew they had a great receiver and quarterback, and we had to keep them in front of us. We'll have to do a better job of that next week against a team that likes to throw the ball."
Newberg won the game on its two greatest strengths: pounding the ball on the ground and playing hard-nosed, lockdown defense. The ground game led by Pothier milked away much of the clock and Newberg's defense sealed it with a turnover on the final drive.
The home team had the ball down 34-28 with just over two minutes to go. While Mannion's arm brought Mountainside back from the brink, a costly interception by Newberg senior Owen Hawley ended any chance of a Mavericks comeback.
The Tigers passed one of their toughest tests of the season and move on to their bowl game, which will be a sixth and final contest of the shortened season due to a lack of OSAA-sanctioned state playoffs this year. Newberg's likely matchup couldn't be bigger: a road date with West Linn next Friday that "will happen" according to Hastin and NHS athletic director Tim Burke, barring any unforeseen changes on West Linn's side. The Lions are the consensus No. 1 team in the state according to statewide media polls, while Newberg came into this week ranked No. 3.
"We're excited for the challenge," Hastin said. "Last year we played the best team in the state (Central Catholic) and it made our program better. An opportunity to play No. 1 next week is awesome. It'll be a huge opportunity, and we're grateful for the chance to show what we're about. We deserve to be there at 5-0 and as league champs."
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