By Jeremy McDonald
COTTAGE GROVE, Ore.– With Elijah Nolan nursing some stiffness in one of his shoulders, Cascade had to rely heavily on their running game to help them through their season-opening game versus Cottage Grove.
The Lions jumped out to a 8-0 lead barely a minute-plus into the season at the 10:51 mark of the first quarter.
But after a tough opening drive, the Cougar offense started to gear up a bit. Holes were opening for Ethan Coffey, Joe Baxter and Nolan as Cascade eventually got onto the board when Coffey punched it in from about three-yards out to make it an 8-7 game entering the second quarter with the running game coming to life for the remainder of the game.
“It was really awesome,” said Westin Nelson. “We’ve been practicing that everyday, the same play…give it to Ethan, Elijah’s shoulder’s is hurting pretty bad right now so we’re letting him rest and give the ball to Ethan and just pound the rock.
With the running game being efficient in setting up a 31-yard Joel Negrete Field Goal to answer Cottage Grove’s Dylan Graves-Erick Giffen touchdown connection entering the second half down just five, the running game continued to be effective into the third and fourth quarters to give the Cougar quarterback an opportunity to breathe easier.
“They did amazing, I’m really proud of them,” said Nolan of his offensive line and backs. “I’m just hoping that we see (Cottage Grove) again it’ll be a great game, but I’m just so proud. Our lineman did great, our running backs they pounded through the hole. It was awesome to watch.”
For the Lions, throughout the game they knew it was a challenge to slowdown the running game, but got stops when they needed them.
“They got a big line, big running backs but that’s all on our D. We need to execute, we need to build this week, we can’t get run over like that every week. That’s a one-time thing,” said Giffen on slowing the Cougars offense down.
Holding penalties and goal line stands prevented Cascade from retaking the lead however, until Coffey used a teammate to keep his balance to score to hand the Cougs their first lead of the game at 19-15 with 5:47 left in the game.
Energized, the Cascade defense went back to work ready to seal the win with another defensive stand.
“We all did our personal jobs, we all had an opportunity to come out here tonight and this was one of our goals that our Seniors had, they wanted to give it their all and I think we did,” said Kanoff of the defense.
A few seconds after handing the ball back to the Lions off the kickoff, Kanoff went up for a contested jump ball at the sidlines in Cascade territory and came down with it. However, it was deemed Pass Interference on the sophomore as the refs said he pushed off while going for the ball, giving Cottage Grove the ball back. A few plays later, Griffen scored to hand the lead back to the Lions.
Cascade came back out and Coffey broke a long run on first and 25 to make it an manageable down, but Graves picked off a Halfback Pass that sealed the 23-19 win Friday night.
And with another tough challenge in Week 2, Cascade host La Salle Prep and this upcoming week mentally and physically is going to be as important as keeping that running game train rolling.
“Just the same thing, just practice hard and lifting each other up whenever we’re down and just doing good,” said Nelson.
“We can take this game as a learning experience honestly,” adds Nolan. “I mean we’re going into practice next week as we’re getting ready for La Salle, just having this in the back of our minds and we just got to work harder than ever to make sure we keep doing what we’re doing in the running game.
“Hopefully I heal up so we can get into passing stuff.”