Halfway through the third quarter against heavily favored Stillman Valley Sept. 13, Oregon scored on a time-consuming 15-play drive to tie the game 7-7.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, Logan Alberts of Stillman Valley returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards. Six plays later, 230-pound fullback Zach Hare crashed over from one yard out and the No. 8 team in 3A held on for a 14-7 win.
“It was a great effort tonight,” Oregon coach John Bothe said. “”We went toe-to-toe with them. I’m happy with how hard and how clean we played.”
Oregon (1-2, 0-1) did not commit a turnover and was not whistled for a penalty until one minute remained in the game.
“Oregon tackled very well,” SV coach Mike Lalor said. “They put more bodies on us than we were used to. It stunned us.”
“We set the tone on defense. There were 11 guys flying around,” said 2-way starter Tyler Blume.
SV came into the contest averaging 45 points a game against two 5A opponents, but had to punt on a 3-and-out to start the game. They also lost three fumbles, all recovered by Blume in the first half.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Blume said. “On the third one, Adam Bettner punched the ball out.”
The third recovery nearly turned the game around. With two minutes left in the half, the Cardinals led 7-0 and advanced the ball to Oregon’s 15-yard line. It was there that Blume picked up a loose ball and raced 65 yards.
After an 8-yard run by Ashton Riutherford and a 5-yarder by Sawyer Reynolds, Oregon had first-and-goal. The SV defense tightened up and forced a field-goal attempt by Reynolds that went wide right.
“That was the turning point of the game for us – holding them out of the end zone,” Lalor said. “I’m proud of the way we responded.”
On one of its best drives in recent years, Oregon was masterful in driving 67 yards and taking six and half minutes off the clock to tie the game.
“That drive was fantastic,” Bothe said. “We were taking Stillman Valley on at its own game.”
Leading the way was Nick Newman, who had a 17-yard run on fourth down, a 12-yard run and 6-yard pass reception.
“On the fourth down play, the blockers (Luke Ziegler and Pierce Dhaese) sealed them in and I saw an opening,” Newman said. ‘This was the best game we’ve played.”
“The line played their hearts out,” Blume added.
Garrett Rude, Reynolds’ back up at fullback, scored on a 3-yard quick hitter over the middle of the line for the lone Hawk score. Reynolds also made his presence felt on defense by leading the Hawks in tackles.
After SV made it 14-7, Oregon put together a mini drive, but it stalled at SV’s 25-yard line as Blume was hit on a fourth down pass attempt. Oregon would force a Cardinal punt, but could not gain a first down. Stillman, which won the statistical battle, drove deep into Hawk territory and ran the clock out.
“This was a wake up call for us,” Lalor said. “I think Oregon will be a very solid this year. Their seniors have put them back to where they belong after a tough year. This game was reminiscent of Oregon football of old.”