By Jeremy McDonald
HILLSBORO, Ore.– Getting to the State Championship game is probably one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you’ll get as an athlete. Just being in that high electricity environment and playing for the name on your jersey.
For St. Paul, who saw last year end by the team whose made a return to the 2A Title Game, knew of the excitement of finally getting to this game.
“The playing, the chance to do that is spectacular. Almost once-in-a-lifetime for some people,” said TJ Crawford, who had 93 passing yards with two touchdowns to go with his nine tackles on defense. “You know, I’m thankful for that but same thing. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted.”
The first half was a sheer shootout as St. Paul led 32-30 on the three-time 1A State Champions in Dufur, but it could’ve easily been more of a lead for the Buckaroos entering the second half where defense became the headliner.
But it was the Rangers who had capitalized on defense the most as they blocked a Crawford punt for a safety and converted on a Pick-6 to turn the two-point deficit into a 38-32 lead entering the fourth quarter as St. Paul struggled to get their offense going in the second half as the clock was winding down in the game.
“You go into the locker room at halftime and you change a few things and we made some changes that were working, they just did better than us,” said Jaidyn Jackson, who had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
The defense held the Dufur offense to no points in the second half behind eight tackles-for-losses and four sacks. Zach Brentano had a team-high 2.5 TFLs and Steven Coppola had a team-high 1.5 sacks to go with his 1.5 Tackles-for-Losses.
And that Bucks defense came down to their heart and effort as they got the ball back with 1:12 left on their two-yard-line after a fantastic goalline stand to give them a chance late in the game.
The St. Paul faithful that made the trip up to Hillsboro, the sideline was behind the eight boys on the gridiron as Crawford came out to the field. With his throwing hand partially swollen, he called the play as his teammates were going to give everything they had to try to tie this game if not win it.
“It shows our heart, it shows where we come from and we don’t give up. Everyone that got in was going 100-percent to stop them at the three-yard line and give us that ball back,” said Crawford entering that last drive.
After two quick incomplete, Crawford connected with Jackson on an out-route knowing that they had no timeouts to assist them. Crawford bobbles a snap, picks up a yard before a sack forced him to spike the ball with fourth-down in front of them for the game.
St. Paul lines up, Crawford and Justine Herberger in the backfield. Herbie had 123 rushing yards with a touch and 12 tackles and a Quarterback Hurry on defense as the ball was snapped.
Crawford saw Jackson slip down the sideline on a fade route and threw as the Dufur defense challenged for the ball, Jackson got a hand on it but couldn’t bring it in as the Buckaroos turned it over on downs and the Rangers kneeled for the 1A Title.
As they went down the line, shaking Dufur’s hands after the 38-32 game, tears were there. So was the raw emotion of knowing they could’ve done better or something different. But as they walked over to the side after they received their Second-Place Trophy, these Seniors and those apart of this year’s team will look back and admit it was a damn good game they played on this Championship Saturday.
“Right now, not everyone think it’s fun. But when you’re older, your going to look back and know it was a good game. A fun game you played, it was a good game probably to watch, not to be a part of the losing team,” smiled Jackson. “But when we’re older I bet we’re going to think it was a good game.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald