MORO – Sherman built an early lead, but the defending champion Dufur Rangers never threw in the towel.
In this big-game showdown, there were plenty of twists and turns throughout, with each team having an opportunity to seize the momentum.
Maverick Winslow was thrust into the spotlight and he delivered the final blow to give Sherman a huge victory.
Winslow capped a four-quarter slugfest with the eventual game-clinching 70-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left in regulation, and the Sherman defense held strong in Dufur’s final possession to preserve a 30-24 win Friday in a Big Sky Conference football classic played in Moro.
“There were times when we kind of got down on each other, but I really think this was the best mentally-prepared performance we’ve had,” Winslow said. “Like I said at the beginning of the year, it is not about how much talent we have, the talent is limitless for us, but it is whether or not we can mentally put it together. I think we took a huge step forward today.”
Jacob Justesen scored on a five-yard run with 8:46 left in the game, but the Huskies, who went 0-for-5 on two-point conversions, had a pass fail to hit the mark, keeping their lead at eight points, 24-16.
With Hagen Pence sidelined due to injury, freshman scatback Asa Farrell and Bailey Keever took control on Dufur’s ensuing possession.
Farrell rushed five times for 63 yards, and Keever capped a seven-play, 76-yard drive, spanning three minutes, with a seven-yard scoring run to make it a 24-22 Sherman lead.
Keever then snuck in from three yards out for the conversion to even the score at 24-all.
With 5:31 on the clock, the Huskies took over on their own 37 and moved the ball to the Dufur 43.
Facing a fourth down and eight from the 41, the Huskies tried a pass play, but the throw from Kyle Fields to Treve Martin was tipped away by Dufur senior Travis Lucas, giving Dufur the ball back with 1:52 on the clock.
With the running of Farrell and Keever, the Rangers moved the ball to Sherman’s 36 and had a fourth down and 12 passing play completed, but a penalty was called for an illegal forward pass on an attempted lateral.
Instead of a first down and 10 from the Sherman 25, the Dufur defense now had to keep the Huskies in check to send the game into overtime.
On the first play from the 30, Fields handed the ball off to Isaiah Coles, who then flipped the ball to Winslow on a reverse.
Winslow broke through a couple of tackles and raced side-by-side with Keever until breaking away for the score.
Sherman had its conversion run fail, so Dufur had the ball from its 39-yard line with 13 seconds left.
On the first play of the drive, a pass interference call moved the chains to the Sherman 46 with seven seconds remaining.
Keever took the next snap and rolled to his right, but a long pass came up short, as time expired, giving Sherman the six-point win and control of the Big Sky Conference.
“They made one more play than we did, bottom line,” said Dufur head coach Jack Henderson. “But, as I told our kids, we need to be proud of our effort and we don’t need to be picking apart this or that or the other thing out of a loss. Yes, we win as a team and we lose as a team and if we approach everything with that mindset, we can move forward and be a great football team and hopefully play Sherman down the line again.”
In all, the No. 8-ranked Huskies (4-1 overall, 3-0 league) totaled 398 yards of offense, 306 on the ground.
Winslow had 17 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns, Isaiah Coles rushed the ball 14 times for 122 yards and a score, and Justesen managed 60 yards and a score on his 16 totes.
Fields completed 8 of 13 passes for 92 yards, four of those passes going to Treve Martin, who had 68 yards, and two each went to Coles and Martin. Coles ended up with 24 yards and Max Martin added 10.
In the past two games leading up to Friday, Sherman coach Bill Blevins said his group has been striking quickly in the pass and run game, so patience was needed in order to gain yards on the Ranger defense.
He tipped his cap to an offensive line featuring Ryan Asher, Nic Lesh, Zach Fluhr, and tight ends Max and Treve Martin.
“I think a ton of credit goes to the guys in the trenches and to coach Blagg for preparing them for Dufur’s defense,” Blevins said. “They just didn’t make too many mistakes. I thought that they fired out pretty well. Like I said, they were physical at the point of attack, allowing our backs to get positive yards. Overall, they did a fantastic job and I think it is great to know that we can lean on those guys when need be.”
Dufur (4-1, 1-1) had 302 total yards, as Keever carried the ball 11 times for 97 yards and two trips to the end zone, and Farrell followed up with 12 carries and 107 yards.
Pence totaled 42 yards rushing and hauled in two catches for 18 yards. Crawford had his one catch go for a touchdown, and both Farrell and Kolbe Bales combined for a catch each for 13 yards.
Keever started the scoring at the 4:20 mark of the first quarter, capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard plunge, and Abraham Kilby added the conversion to make it an 8-0 Dufur lead.
On the next kickoff, Winslow returned the ball 85 yards for the score, but the conversion failed, inching the Huskies to within an 8-6 deficit.
In the second quarter, Fields connected with Treve Martin from 16 yards out and then Coles rumbled 35 yards to the end zone to swell the Sherman lead to 18-8 at the half.
Sherman had 225 of its yards in the first half, 132 on the ground.
Playing their third straight tough opponent, the fourth-ranked Rangers host undefeated and No. 16 Arlington (4-0, 3-0) next Friday in another pivotal league tussle.
Henderson said he is looking forward to how his team responds next week in preparation.
Crawford, a junior captain, wants to see better teamwork and togetherness on all fronts.
“We need to just take a step back and come back even stronger,” Crawford said. “Something set us back, yeah, but it is a humbling thing too. We won everything last year and we kind of had big heads, but now we are back down to earth. We need to start playing like we are not the best team ever. We have a lot of work to do.”
Sherman next travels to Spray for a league contest against Mitchell-Spray (2-2, 0-2) at 1 p.m. Friday.
“We can’t just take this win for granted, because if we end up meeting again down the road, it is not going to be a cakewalk,” Winslow said. “They can easily beat us, just like we beat them tonight. They are a great football team and they are very well-coached. We just can’t take this one for granted. We got to keep going and treat it like it is just one game. We got to keep pushing forward.”