Round 2 of 5A playoffs takes Indians to tradition-rich Pendleton, which beat them in September

PHOTO COURTESY: JOHN BREWINGTON - Connor McNabb of Scappoose High gets behind a defender and pulls in a long pass during last week's Class 5A playoff victory over North Bend. The Indians visit Pendleton on Friday night for a state quarterfinal game.It's been seven weeks since the Pendleton Buckaroos came to Scappoose and rallied to defeat the Indians, 47-27.

A lot of football has been played since then. How much has changed for both teams will be seen on Friday, when Scappoose visits Pendleton for a 7 p.m. Class 5A football quarterfinal at Round-Up Stadium.

Scappoose junior quarterback Jakobi Kessi says the Sept. 29 regular-season game with the Buckaroos seems like a long time ago.

"It does. I feel like our team has really come together and grown since that Week 4 matchup," Kessi says. "We weren't as much of a team back then. We thought we were too good. We were really cocky. So that was a great gut check for us, and since then we've really come together as a team. We don't get on each other. We just want to win."

The Indians (8-2 and seeded sixth in the state) have won their last four games, including last week's 20-14 Oregon School Activities Association first-round playoff game at home against North Bend.

Pendleton (9-1 and seeded third) lost to No. 1-ranked Wilsonville on Oct. 26, but bounced back to oust Crescent Valley from the postseason, 27-14, last week in Pendleton.

Football has always been big in the Eastern Oregon city of about 17,000. Former Buckaroos coach Don Requa, whose teams won more than 300 games and 13 conference championships in 36 seasons, is remembered with a statue on Main Street.

"When you have a statue of the coach in the middle of town, you have a lot of tradition," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb says.

That's part of the challenge facing the Indians this week. But they're fired up about the opportunity.

"We're so excited," Kessi says. "We feel like it's going to be a great game. They're a great team. We're just trying to go there and turn the table, give them a good run for their money."

The Indians led early when the teams met at Scappoose.

"We walked away from that game not feeling very good," McNabb says. "I feel like against Wilsonville we battled, they're a good team, but the Pendleton game I felt like we didn't play as well as we should have, and they're a good team, a good program. Our kids came away from that one pretty disappointed.

"We were ahead and had the ball on the 4-yard line and didn't score, and (Pendleton) wound up going 96 yards and putting the ball in the end zone, and I didn't feel like we responded very well to that adversity."

Scappoose senior receiver/defensive end Gavin Larson says the loss to the Bucks "still hurts. We want our second chance at them."

If all goes well, the Indians can put some pressure on the Buckaroos and get keep up-tempo offense working fast.

"Last game, we jumped on them early, and then we slowed up a little bit," Larson says. "Now we've got it going to where we can go full speed all game, and I think that's going to help us a lot. That's our game plan — just go, go, go."

That and let the big offensive line block for Kessi and his collection of running backs, led by senior Connor McNabb.

"He's the guy every team is going to try to stop," Coach McNabb says, "but Quincy Cleveland and Matt Roth run well, and Jakobi has been making great decisions and plays with his feet and nice throws, too."

Getting past North Bend last week wasn't easy. Two field goals by sophomore Cade McDonald provided six crucial points.

"We found a way to win. It was a hard-fought game," Coach McNabb said.

Pendleton presents even more of a test.

"They're going to be a tough opponent," Coach McNabb says, "but we match up well with them. We've just got to play well. We've got to win matchups. When teams pack the box and stop the run, they put guys man-to-man on your receivers, and your receivers have got to win matchups. That's a big part of it."

Scappoose senior defensive back/receiver Mason Smiens says the Indians "want some revenge on Pendleton. We definitely think we can beat them. We're ready, they're ready."

While "it's nice being the underdog," says Coach McNabb, the Indians would like to continue to show that they belong as a 5A rookie among the elite at that level, as they had done for years in 4A football.

"A lot of people doubted us, didn't give us much of a chance this year, partly because we had a really big, good senior class last year," Coach McNabb says. "But here we are, 8-2 and battling in the quarterfinals.

"I know Pendleton is going to be concerned, because playing a good team twice is not always fun.

"I'm sure both teams are better than they were back in September. That's the whole goal, to try to peak in November. So we're going to come out firing and leave it on the field and see what happens."

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