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Wrap-Up 2023 12/5/23

Here I was once again. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. The last Saturday in November. After three months, Championship Saturday had arrived and it was my job to keep track of all the action. Okay, I admit it: I hadn’t watched or listened to the 5A or 6A games that took place Friday evening at Hillsboro Stadium. In the 5A game, the Wilsonville team we’d seen win their quarterfinal game so impressively beat Mountain View of Bend. Mountain View led for most of the game and were up 23-14 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats scored the final 15 points of the game for the 29-23 win. It was their second win in six trips to the championship game. The Central Catholic Rams won their seventh championship and their third in the last four years in the 6A game, beating Tualatin handily, 49-21, to finish the season undefeated. Since they only win them in pairs, they’re a lock to win the championship again next season.

I appreciate the OSAA for holding two of the games the night before, but that still left another six games for me to follow on this Saturday, in addition to everything else that was going on. The Arsenal game didn’t start until 9:00, so I could have slept in, but I couldn’t trust their rivals to lose points without being awake to watch them, so I got up extra early. Sure enough, it ended in a draw, and they surely would have won if I hadn’t been there to cheer on the opposition. Cheering my Gunners on to victory proved easy by comparison, and the day was off to a great start.

It wasn’t until 1:00pm that the 6A Columbia Cup final and the 1A-8-man final would begin, and I’ll skip all of the miscellaneous college football and basketball I watched while waiting for them to start, but it’s safe to say that my honeydo list was no shorter by early afternoon than it had been early that morning.

By 1:00, though, I had one set of headphones plugged into my laptop and the other set hooked up to my phone and was ready to follow the radio play-by-play from both Cottage Grove and Bend. Westview won the inaugural Columbia Cup last season in a competition that features the 16-32 ranked teams in the 6A classification, and #18 South Medford was taking on #21 Sunset at Don King Field in Cottage Grove in the second edition of that competition. South Medford came in with a 9-3 record and had been dominant in their first 3 playoff games. Sunset was 8-4 on the season, but those four losses had been by a grand total of 22 points, and they were riding a five-game winning streak.

It was the Apollos of Sunset who got off to a fast start, leading 13-after the first quarter. But the Panthers of South Medford got back into the game and only trailed by 7 late in the third quarter when they forced a Sunset punt. The Panthers fumbled that punt inside their own 5 yard line, and the Apollos soon had their lead back to 13. When they scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by 20, it was all over but the shouting, and Sunset went on to win their first Columbia Cup 34-21.

Meanwhile, at Caldera High School in Bend, #1 Lost River was taking on #2 Crane in the 1A-8-man championship. The Lost River Raiders of Merrill, in Klamath County, were undefeated and had only lost one game in two seasons after winning the championship last season. This would be their fourth title overall if they could get it done again this year. But the Crane Mustangs were also undefeated, though they were winless in 3 previous championship games.

Crane began the scoring with their passing game just a few minutes into the game. But that’s when the Raiders’ running game took over and by halftime they had opened up a ten point lead, 14-24. When they put together an almost 8 minute scoring drive in the third quarter to stretch their lead to 14-30 it felt like an insurmountable lead, which it proved to be. The Mustangs did manage another touchdown pass in the final period to make the final score 20-30, but the Lost River Raiders had preserved their undefeated season and won back-to-back championships.

I can’t say I caught each play of the action in those first two games because as they were each away at halftime, the next pair of games was just beginning. Kickoff was at 2:00 for the 2A game at Hillsboro Stadium and the 1A-6-man game at Hermiston High School, and with no video or gamecast for any of the games, I was left to juggle the four games between my two sets of headphones. It took a while to get the hang of the process, but eventually I settled on a rotation between the two sets of headphones and my two ears that allowed me to keep up with most of what was going on in each game.

My ears took a beating trying to keep up with the action from Hillsboro and Hermiston. In the 6-man game, Joseph ran out to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter, and were surely on their way to their first-ever championship. Lowell outdid them, though, in the 2A game, passing for two touchdowns and running for another to put up 22 first quarter points against the Weston-McEwan/Griswold Tiger Scots. Then the Tiger Scots answered with a couple of passing touchdowns of their own and had cut the lead to 29-21 by halftime. In Hermiston, the Echo Cougars stormed back with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take the lead on Joseph, 21-19, going to the break. This was an Echo team that had started the season by losing three of its first four games, and snuck into the playoffs with a 2-2 league record. They had lost to this same Joseph team by 24 points back in September, yet here they were with the halftime lead.

The two teams came back out and spent the second half running up and down the field against each other until Joseph scored with two minutes left in the game to get within 7 points. But they couldn’t recover the onside kick, and the Echo Cougars claimed their first state championship.

Back in Hillsboro, things were even more crazy. The Tiger Scots kept scoring points, but not nearly fast enough to keep up with the Red Devils from Lowell, who extended their lead to 51-36 after 3 quarters, and kept rolling all the way to a final 74-42 victory, their first in a state championship game. For the second straight year the Tiger Scots, along with the Griswold mascot Clark Griswold, came up just short.

I still had two more games to go, but with just the two games, as well as keeping up with the Beavers soccer game, it was all downhill from here. The Banks Braves were taking on the Cascade Christian Challengers from Medford at Cottage Grove High School in the 3A game, and the Henley Hornets were battling the Marist Spartans in the 4A game at Caldera High School.

Marist had a strong passing attack, and threw for over 300 yards in the game, but Henley intercepted 4 passes and used their running game to control the clock to come away with a convincing 42-28 win in Bend. It was their third championship and first since 1982.

In Cottage Grove, the 12-0 and #1 ranked Banks Braves had their hands full from the outset against the 12-0 #2 ranked team from Cascade Christian. I’d seen the Challengers dominate a decent Coquille team earlier in the season, and it was hard to imagine them losing to anyone. The Challengers led 17-0 after the first quarter and extended the lead to 24-6 by halftime and 34-12 after three. Banks scored a couple of touchdowns in the final quarter, but couldn’t get closer than 10 points. Considering the Braves ran the ball 22 times for a total of 13 yards for the game, they kept things pretty close, all things considered. But in the end the Challengers had won their second title in a row, 34-24, and their fifth championship overall.

And in between all that football the Beavers just would not stop scoring. After spotting SMU an opening goal, they tied it up. Then every time I looked they had scored again. Hey! We’re up 2-1! 3-1! We just scored again, it’s 4-1. 5. 6. 7-1? How bad is that SMU team that’s ranked #6 in the country? I don’t know, but we won, and I loved it.

All that football and everything else had been exhausting, and I could hear the couch calling me. It has a very seductive voice sometimes, but then I remembered I wasn’t done just yet. I’d promised Mrs. Ednold we’d watch the quarterfinals of the Baking Show, so I had to make it through one more competition before my rendezvous with my pillow. Unlike other reality shows where all the contestants are morons, they have people you don’t look forward to seeing get kicked off, but all of my favorites will be coming back for the semis next week, so it was a nice way to end the day.

It’s been another interesting season of driving around Oregon. We spent some time at the Dexter Lake Club and visited Pleasant Hill High just a few weeks before Pleasant Hill’s favorite son, Russ Francis, died in a plane crash. He’d been a pilot for 50 years, but his plane lost power shortly after take-off and that was that. We learned who Johnnie Ray was, and we learned what Jimi Hendrix’ grandpa used to do. We watched a game from what was once center field for the old Drain Black Sox, and ordered snacks from the Vernonia snack bar on the first night it was ever open. We learned that, in Oregon, Aloha doesn’t mean hello or goodbye, and that Gentle Ben originated in the Beaver State. And some people say you can’t learn anything from watching football.

So, that does it for the football season this year, but since the holiday season is now upon us, I’ve got one more little thing for you to think about. With the recent passing of Shane McGowan, his masterpiece, Fairytale of New York, has been getting a lot of attention lately. It is a brilliant song, but some of the credit has to be reserved for our old friend, Elvis Costello. As the long-time partner of the Pogues’ bassist, Cait O’Riordan, Elvis knew McGowan well. In the mid- 80’s Costello conceded that McGowan was a great writer but pointed out that he’d never written a Christmas tune and bet Shane that he couldn’t do it. Never has a bet been won so resoundingly. The result was the most depressingly hopeful, (or hopefully depressing, depending on your mood) Christmas song ever. Sadly, both Shane and Kirsty MacColl are gone now, but the song is as good as ever. Listen to it and have a Merry Christmas.

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Gilbert Stewart
Gilbert Stewart
Dec 07, 2023

What a season you had. Have you ever stopped to calculate the miles you have put on the Bucket in the name of prep football? I'm guessing you and the Mrs have seen parts of Oregon you had never seen before.......and taken a lot of us along for the ride. Thanks for that.

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