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Indians play hard, use adjustments to knock off Buckaroos in Class 5A playoff game

COURTESY PHOTO: KATHY ANEY/EAST OREGONIAN - Scappoose running back Josh Rice picks up key yards at Pendleton's Round-Up Stadium, chased by the Buckaroos' Nat Hunsaker.PENDLETON — If any of the Scappoose Indians make it back to Pendleton again someday, be that for a rodeo or on their way to Idaho or for whatever reason, they'll have something to remember the place fondly.

The Indians turned the tables on the Pendleton Buckaroos last Friday, stunning them 23-14 in a Class 5A first-round game at Round-Up Stadium.

"This is something they'll remember the rest of their lives," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb said after his players pulled off the high school football upset.

Scappoose had played Pendleton four previous times since the Indians moved in classification from 4A to 5A in 2018.

Pendleton had won all four, including in the 2018 state quarterfinals, also at Pendleton.

The Indians also had just lost — at Pendleton — 41-21 in a Special District 1 crossover game on Nov. 1.

But, seven days later, Scappoose found the winning formula.

And it was no fluke.

The Indians never trailed, and could have even won more handily if they had converted some other scoring chances that went awry.

"We never gave up, we played hard the whole game," McNabb said. "Even when things weren't going too well, the kids got after it."

Scappoose took a 7-0 lead with 5:05 left in the first quarter, with senior quarterback Jakobi Kessi scoring on a 15-yard run.

In the third quarter, at the 9:05 mark, senior running back Josh Rice got into the end zone on a 1-yard run.

Pendleton got a touchdown, but with one minute left in the third quarter, junior Cade McDonald boosted the Indians' lead to 17-7 with a 31-yard field goal.

Kessi's 8-yard touchdown run with about one minute left in the game made the score 23-7.

Pendleton got its final touchdown in the closing seconds.

Scappoose came close to other scores, such as at the end of the first half, when a pass went just beyond the reach of junior receiver Logan Johnson. McDonald made another field goal — only to have it wiped out when the officials "said our left guard flinched" at the line of scrimmage, McNabb said. A re-kick from five yards farther went off the crossbar. And, in the fourth quarter, senior Blake Morkert intercepted a Pendleton pass and was close to scoring when he lost the handle near the goal line and the ball went through the back of the end zone for a touchback.

The Indians' defense was tough throughout the night, including only moments into the game.

Pendleton picked off a Scappoose pass on the second play.

"It wasn't a great way to start, but everybody stayed really positive," McNabb said, "and we played great defense and wound up getting the ball back."

That seemed to set the tone, as the Indians used some game-plan adjustments defensively to slow a Pendleton offense that in previous meetings had been able to move the ball well and eat up time on the clock.

"They weren't able to sustain long drives this time like they had before against us," McNabb said.

The Indians' physicality and mental approach also were huge keys in beating a storied football program in a town that comes out in full force to support its Bucks.

"I know that going into the game a lot of people were like, 'Oh, God, you've got to play Pendleton again,' but I was excited about the challenge, and I know our coaching staff was," McNabb said. "On Monday the week of the game, I told the kids, 'I don't think Pendleton wants to play you guys all that bad, either.'

"That second game (on Nov. 1) was really physical, and there were some kids on both sides of the ball that were pretty worn out after that."

And, the adage about it being to defeat a team three times in one season may have played a part, as well.

Both teams tweaked a few things for the rematch of the rematch, McNabb said, but the Indians kept the Bucks a bit on their heels with more man-to-man coverage, more pressure on the QB and some looks they used to try to confuse him.

"I think it worked," McNabb said. "They threw a couple of interceptions and missed some opportunities."

Kessi and Rice, meanwhile, ran well behind Scappoose's efficient offensive line. Kessi picked up 148 yards on 14 carries, with a long gain of 62 yards. Rice toted the pigskin 22 times for 86 yards; 23 yards was his longest run.

"The guys up front did a great job blocking," McNabb said, "and we completed some passes that put us in position to score. Credit also to the coaches, who did a great job getting the kids ready and responding to the task at hand."

Safety Kessi and senior linebacker Slater Smiens each had eight tackles to lead a balanced effort in that category for Scappoose. Morkert, senior defensive back Thomas Greiner and senior lineman Tommy McKedy all had six stops. Junior Riyle Kauffman made five tackles. Seniors Connor Maclachlan and Colton Frates were in on four each.

Smiens recovered a Pendleton fumble, forced by McKedy, in the red zone.

And Greiner had a key interception that thwarted a Pendleton drive in the second half, with Scappoose nursing its 17-7 lead.

"He made a great play on the ball," McNabb said, "and then we took it down and scored our final touchdown."

Another key in the game was the play of senior lineman Jackson Lehman, who got duty on both sides of the ball in replacing junior Cutter Sandstrom, out after being tossed the previous week at Pendleton.

McNabb said he had walked away from that Nov. 1 crossover game "thinking we could beat those guys."

The opportunity to prove it came, and the Indians seized it.

"To get beat twice by a team and be able to respond like our guys did says a lot about the character of our players," McNabb said.

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