DUFUR – No matter the sport, teams have the tendency to look too far ahead when it comes to facing an opponent they have previously beaten by a large margin.
Not the Dufur Rangers.
Dufur racked up 505 yards of offense and the defense allowed six first downs, 95 yards of offense, posted six sacks and forced 16 negative-yardage plays in a 54-2 drubbing of Falls City Friday in a 1A state football contest played in Dufur.
“They were down a couple of players the last time we played, so we knew we were going to have to step up our intensity,” said senior safety Travis Lucas. “We came out and played hard because we just knew, especially for our seniors, that this could have been our last game. We played like it tonight. We had a sense of urgency about us.”
Dufur scored on its first two possessions, using a one-yard run by Bailey Keever and a 56-yard scamper by Curtis Crawford to jump ahead by a 14-0 tally with seven minutes and 34 seconds left in the opening period.
Falls City wound up scoring its only two points of the game with less than 30 seconds left in the first quarter on a safety.
After that safety, Dufur scored on three of its final four possessions of the first half, the first coming on a 66-yard touchdown run by Asa Farrell that made it a 22-2 margin with 11:37 left.
After a quarterback sack by senior defensive end T.J. Kennedy that forced a loss of downs, the Rangers had the ball back with 4:57 remaining.
On second down and 8 from their own 35, Keever hit Crawford for a 62-yard pass play to make it first and goal from the three-yard line.
Hagen Pence rumbled into the end zone on the next play and Keever added the conversion run to run the lead to 30-2.
With time running out in the first half, Keever and Crawford hooked up again, this time for 33 yards, as the Rangers moved out in front, 36-2, at the half.
In the second half, Farrell had a 15-yard scoring run, Keever added a six-yard scamper and with less than two minutes left in the game, Abraham Kilby capped the scoring with a one-yard plunge.
Keever had an all-around game throwing and rushing the football by chipping in 269 yards passing and a score, to go along with two rushing trips to the end zone.
Farrell posted nine rushes for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Pence scored and Crawford added 56 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Bales had four catches for 112 yards, and Crawford hauled in seven catches for 148 yards and a score, as Dufur had four plays of 40 yards or more and eight plays of 20 yards or more.
“Offensively, we had a bunch of people open and stuff, so I was happy with their performance on that end of the field,” said Dufur coach Jack Henderson. “Kolbe (Bales) and Curtis (Crawford) caught the ball well, Asa (Farrell), our freshman, ran the ball well and I think our offensive line did some good work. It was exciting to see.”
The first half is where defensive coordinator C.S. Little’s Ranger defense flexed their muscles.
Falls City ran 28 plays, totaled 10 yards and picked up three first downs.
On eight first-half possessions, the Mountaineers punted six times, had a drive end in a loss of downs and had one drive end at the end of the half.
Dufur racked up four sacks, three by Kennedy, and forced 10 negative-yardage plays.
“It was really the defense’s game this time. They did a good job of playing hard,” said Ranger senior Ben Anderson. “We were able to keep the quarterback contained. He was their best player this year. We kept him contained and did not allow him to get any big passes and their running game was shut down. We stopped them pretty good.”
Of the 95 yards gained by the Mountaineers, junior quarterback Jeremy Labrado accounted for 65 yards, with 13 rushes for 41 yards and 24 yards passing on a 5 of 14 completion rate.
Noah Sickles added six carries for 18 yards, as Falls City rushed the ball 36 times for 71 yards.
The Mountaineers end the season with a 5-5 record and a No. 14 ranking, as this was the first time the program had earned a playoff berth in 34 years.
“We talked about it as a team that the monkey is off our backs now. It has been 34 years and it is off our backs and we have built an expectation here on this team,” Labrado said. “Now, if we don’t make it to the playoffs, there is something wrong. Our work starts now for next year, so we need to focus on getting in the weight room, so we can work on getting faster and getting stronger, to get back to the playoffs again.”
The stigma of being the defending champions adds fuel to the Rangers.
They still have the mindset that there is much more to prove as the weeks go by.
Although standing with a 9-1 record and riding a five-game win streak, Pence said Dufur is far from a finished product.
“I would say that we just have to continue to get better in every part of the game,” Pence said. “We need to come out as one and start working better as a team. There is always room for improvement, nobody is the best out there. Everybody makes mistakes. We just need to limit our mistakes and be the best that we can be.”
Dufur plays the winner of Saturday’s playoff contest between Days Creek and Arlington.
If Days Creek comes out on top, the Rangers travel west, but an Arlington victory sets up a home playoff game next Friday.