Tipped passes, tough defense overcome monster game from Justice Oman

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Nick Rust fights off a defender during the first half of Scappoose's 22-14 loss to Central on Friday, Sept. 20. The unbeaten run is at an end for Scappoose. Frustrated in the first half by several intelligent adjustments by the Central defense, the Indians struggled to get the passing game going until it was too late, a last minute drive sputtering out as the Tribe (3-1) tumbled 22-14 for their first loss of the season.

For the Panthers (3-1), it was a much different story. Gunslinger quarterback Ben Finnegan completed only seven passes, but it was for 149 yards. Several times throughout the game, Finnegan dropped back, narrowly avoided a sack, and hucked the ball in the direction of one of his talented receivers. Unlike the game against Dallas, where Finnegan through seven picks, the rouse worked. Three of Finnegan’s receptions were for 29 yards or longer, with the longest being a 48 yard strike from midfield that the Indians just barely kept out of the end zone.

The ground game was even more successful. Junior running back Wesley Riddell shouldered the majority of the load, carrying the ball 23 times for 139 yards. Both he and senior Tell Cruickshank, who carried the ball 20 times for 76 yards, were difficult matchups for the Indians. A heavy reliance on the pitch to the outside saw the Panthers break through the line of scrimmage time and time again, and even once the runners were hit, they remained on their feet and fought for yardage.

Perhaps the biggest key to Central’s victory was their stifling of Taylor Loss, who had previously thrown for 280 yards per game with just one interception. The Panthers had their defensive ends back off of the line of scrimmage, putting them in position to take advantage of any pass that Loss put low enough for their hands to reach. Sophomore defensive end Madison Stepp batted three passes, all in the first half. Two of those passes hit the ground, but one fell into the hands of Central’s defensive secondary for Loss’ second interception of the season.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Senior receiver Justice Oman (19) jumps for a catch late in the second half of the Indian's 22-14 loss to Central on Friday night. Oman led the Tribe with 12 catches for 165 yards, including this reception during their final scoring drive in the fourth quarter.Patience, according to Loss, was a big factor.

“I think they expected me to pass a lot because of the past three games when we’d been throwing,” said Loss. “They just jumped, expected it and tipped it. Part of it was me not taking my steps and being impatient.”

In spite of a difficult first two quarters, halftime adjustments for Loss and the passing game made a huge difference. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Loss had completed 20 passes for 196 yards.

Perhaps his most dangerous drive was midway through the fourth quarter. The Indian defense held on a goalline stand, silencing the Panther’s running game at the six yard line to force a turnover on downs. Behind the arm of Loss and the hands of senior receiver Justice Oman, the Indians marched 94 yards, including an all-important 4th and 7 from the 23 yard line. Loss dropped back and found Oman once again, who scrambled to set up first and goal at the seven yard line.

“You’ve got to get the ball into your playmaker’s hands,” said Indian head coach Sean McNabb. “Justice is a playmaker, and he came up big on that fourth down. We played with some urgency, and I thought we played pretty good with our backs against the wall, but we put ourselves in that position.”

Two plays later, Loss hit David Krupski for the eight yard touchdown pass with 6:03 left in the fourth quarter for their second score of the evening.

By that point, the Indians were just about out of time, even with their quick strike offense. Thanks to a pair of costly penalties, the defense held and returned the ball to Loss and the offense, but the drive stalled once again after two promising runs from senior running back Carson Davison to get the ball to the Indians 44 yard line. The road team turned the ball over on downs as the clock ticked past three minutes, and from there it was a game of kill-the-clock for Central, who was able to hold on to the ball just long enough to escape with the 22-14 victory.

“It’s about bouncing back. You’ve got to be tough during tough times. We didn’t get it done tonight,” McNabb said. “It won’t feel good tonight, and it sure as hell won’t feel good all weekend.”

Though the loss is difficult to swallow, McNabb has confidence in his team’s ability to make adjustments, practice hard and come out on top.

“This is a good group,” he said. “I know that they can win a league title, and that’s what we’re going to focus on right now.”

Notes: Scappoose was averaging 49 points per game coming into the contest, and managed just 14, their lowest in a non-playoff game since a 23-8 loss to Banks in 2010. Justice Oman had 12 receptions for 165 yards, a fair few further than his next most productive game where he caught five passes for 122 yards. The Indians also had a fumble midway through the third quarter, where Loss attempted to rush up the middle on 3rd and goal from the one yard line, but quite hang on.

Scappoose 0 7 0 7 - 14

Central 7 15 0 0 - 22


1st Quarter

Panthers - Aaron Hobgood 48 pass from Ben Finnegan (Roger Torres kick), 8:27

2nd Quarter

Panthers - Finnegan 2 run (Torres kick), 7:22

Panthers - Tell Cruickshank 1 run (Cruickshank run), 5:51

Indians - Taylor Loss 4 run (Ben Gadbois kick), 1:36

Fourth Quarter

Indians (Jones kick), 6:03

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