By Jeremy McDonald
GRANTS PASS, Ore.– The Kennedy defense came through in the clutch when they needed it the most Saturday evening in Southern Oregon.
In what looked like it was going to be another dominant win for the Trojans this evening, leading 21-0 entering the second half, their offense struggled a bit down the stretch. Turning to their defense to hold the line to send them to their third State Title Game in four years at Grants Pass High School.
They ultimately did in the 21-0 game, holding a Lakeview scoreless and snapping their six-game winning streak while collecting their fourth shutout of the season.
“Coach talked to us and said ‘We got to execute and finish the game off strong’ and that’s what we did. We came out and played good defense, stopping them from scoring,” Owen Bruner said. “We probably have one of the best run defenses in the State.”
Bruner and Elijah Traeger each picked up interceptions in the game as the Trojan defense held the Honkers to 147 total yards, 61 in the air and 86 on the ground. Backing up their offense that picked up three touchdowns in about a 12-minute window.
William Schaecher broke the shutout with 5:32 left in the first quarter. Riley Cantu connected with Luke Beyer for 44-yards at the 9:39 before finding Bruner three minutes later as Saturday’s game had the looking’s of possibly their sixth-straight running clock going into the halftime break up 21.
“I thought we executed well in the first half. Everything was going our way and getting the right reads on offense, making the plays,” Cantu said. “I thought (the second half) was good. We learned a lot. We’re fast and play physical, so I think it’ll be a good test for us next week.”
The goal was getting back to the State Title Game and they turned to their defense to finish the job on this cold November evening during the second half.
There was a feeling that they wanted Heppner to come out of the other side of the bracket for the rematch from their Week 4 defeat in which Kennedy suffered their lone defeat of the season 34-28. It would’ve also been the rematch of the 2019 2A State Title as well.
But a new challenger emerged from that side of the bracket in Coquille.
The Red Devils edged the Mustangs 8-6 with each team’s touchdowns coming within the last 5:32 of the game with Coquille getting a two-point conversion with 2:23 left in the game for the difference in the game.
The Devils Gunner Yates (129 yards) and Brock Willis (97) combined for 226 yards in the game on 46 carries. A challenge for the run defense of the Trojans ahead with Coquille only throwing four times in the win compared to the 22 Cantu threw against Lakeview.
“We just have to know where to line up and be super physical. Don’t let them in space and make plays on us, containing (Yates) and getting him off the field on third and fourth downs. Getting our offense on the field, our offense right now is cooking so we have to keep it going into the Championship Game,” Cantu said.
Kick-off is scheduled for 3pm at Cottage Grove High School.
Cantu finished the game 9-for-22 for 138 yards and two touchdowns with four different Trojans with two catches apiece.
Schaecher led the rushing attack with 54 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Elijah Traeger had 11 carries for 44 yards in the win.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald