All game long, the Dufur Rangers had difficulties stopping senior running back Chase Walker and the high-powered Adrian Antelope running game.
The Antelopes got a career-high 380 yards rushing and five touchdowns from Walker to preserve a come-from-behind 58-52 win over the Dufur Rangers in an OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires semifinal playoff game Saturday in Hermiston.
The last of Walker’s carries came with time running out in the fourth and the score knotted at 52-apiece.
After taking possession on an interception by Tyler Reay, the Antelopes had the ball on their own 10-yard line with 23.1 seconds left in regulation.
It appeared as though Adrian would kneel a few times and try its luck in overtime.
The first pass from Adrian quarterback Reagan Shira was nearly intercepted by Ranger defensive back Bailey Keever on a short hop.
Adrian fullback Morgan White then rumbled six yards ahead to the 16 with just 14 seconds on the clock.
Faced with a third down and four from the 16-yard line, Walker broke free through the left side of the field for 84 yards and the eventual winning touchdown with two seconds left to make it a 58-52 score.
“You never know what is going to happen in overtime, so we thought we would give it a chance on that last play,” said Walker, who had scoring runs of 27, 80, 69, 68 and 84. “Our 31 Dive was working all game and it worked out perfect. The blockers made the holes and I had enough speed to get past everyone.”
With a few ticks left on the clock, the Rangers had one last chance for a miracle kickoff return, but Keever was stopped inside Adrian territory without a chance to execute the lateral play.
This matchup was a seesaw battle for the duration, as the two squads combined for 1,162 yards.
Dufur had leads of 24-14, 32-14, 38-22 in the opening half, and led 38-28 at the break.
Adrian crept closer on its first possession of the second stanza on a 61-yard run by White to make it 38-36 with 11:04 left in the third.
The Ranger advantage remained two points entering the fourth quarter.
Both teams combined for 36 points and 378 yards in the final frame, with Dufur taking a 44-36 lead with 11:48 left on a 75-yard run by Nick Little.
White had a 37-yard score and Walker tacked on a 68-yarder to give the Antelopes their first lead of the contest at 52-44 with 7:24 left.
Dufur then went on a six-play, 55-yard drive on its next possession, capped by a 40-yard pass from Keever to Jake Little to make it a 52-50 Ranger deficit.
On the conversion, Keever had a pass go off the fingertips of Jake Little into the arms of a diving Nick for the two points to even things at 52-all with 4:46 left.
After a Ranger stop, they had the ball in Adrian territory, but could not cash in on a first down inside the Adrian 20.
“I am proud of the guys for battling,” said Dufur coach Jack Henderson. “Adrian was obviously bigger, faster and stronger, but we were a couple of plays from winning this game. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But, there is no reason for us to hold our heads down.”
Dufur rushed 50 times for 323 yards, as Nick Little had 24 carries for 154 yards and a score. Tibbets, another senior, had 90 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Keever, who rushed for 79 yards, completed 10 of 27 passes for 196 yards. He had three scoring passes, two to Jake Little and he also tossed three interceptions.
“We had a great season,” Tibbets said. “This is the furthest I have been in the playoffs and I am so happy to be a part of this team. We should be proud of what we did this year.”