DUFUR – For the past eight years, Dufur and Sherman have created a classic crosstown rivalry as two of the top teams in the Big Sky Conference and the state.
The last two times the teams have slugged it out on the gridiron during the regular season, however, the Huskies have won both games by a combined four points, last year winning by a 30-24 margin on their way to a Big Sky title.
Coincidently, during that span, the Dufur Rangers have claimed state championship victories.
“We’re very excited for this challenge,” said Dufur head coach Jack Henderson. “Sherman is a very athletic team that creates issues for their opponents in all three phases of the game.”
The Huskies (3-2 overall) enter action ranked 20th in the 1A classification and are riding a two-game winning streak with wins over Pilot Rock and Touchet, Wash.
With its newly-implemented power running and play-action game, quarterback Jacob Justesen has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the last two contests to move the Huskies to No. 9 in scoring offense (220 points).
“They do a lot of stuff that keeps you off balanced, like the run option, they can spread you out and throw it, sweep you, and turn their quarterback loose,” Henderson said.
While the Huskies are a formidable offense ranked in the top-10, the Ranger scoring defense is tops in the state at 61 points allowed in four games, holding opponents to two touchdowns or fewer in three of four tilts.
Against Perrydale last week, a 58-22 win, the Ranger defense allowed 170 total yards and had nine tackles for loss.
Sherman is coming off a 48-6 win over Touchet, Wash., where Justesen completed 8 of 16 passes for 265 yards and five touchdowns, Treve Martin had a career-high 215 yards receiving and four scores, and the rushing duo of Bradley Moe and Reese Blake combined for 141 yards and two touchdowns, as the team totaled 163 yards on 38 attempts.
Henderson described Justesen as athletic a player as anyone in the state, and that Martin is big, strong and physical.
“The key for us is to be disciplined on defense,” Henderson said. “Their athleticism is difficult to deal with.”
As a team currently on a four-game win streak, the Rangers rank 10th in scoring offense at 54 points a clip (216 total points).
In their lopsided win last weekend in Washington, Derek Frakes completed all eight of his passes for 134 yards and three scores, as the Rangers scored on their first six first-half possessions in a 58-22 romp over Perrydale.
On the ground, Dufur totaled 178 yards on 19 attempts, with
Tanner Masterson going for 70 yards on four totes, Pence hitting on 68 yards, and Abraham Kilby added 30 yards on two rushes.
Through five games, the Husky defense has surrendered 116 points for 14th in the state, but they are coming off one of their best performances of the season in a six-point output against Touchet on 219 yards, 176 on the ground.
Blake had 11.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks, Caleb Fritts totaled three sacks to go with his nine tackles, and both Tyler Jones and Justesen had six tackles each.
All told, Sherman posted a season-high nine sacks.
“They do pretty much everything known to man on defense,” Henderson said of preparing for Sherman’s defense. “You have to be prepared for many looks when you play Sherman. We need to be able to identify what they are in, and attack it accordingly.”
Henderson said it comes down to executing in all three phases of the game and taking care of the ball on offense.
With their ability to run the ball, it has given Frakes plenty of time to navigate the offense up and down the field for productive drives.
The Ranger line will be tested with Martin, Justesen, Makoa Whitaker, Caleb Fritts and Kyle Hensley applying the pressure.
“Our offensive line has really developed this season, both run blocking and pass blocking,” Henderson said. “They give Derek time to make good decisions and reads, allowing him to be successful. But, our ability to run the ball is always a key for us. Having that ability helps your quarterback for sure.”
In last year’s rivalry game in Moro, Maverick Winslow capped a four-quarter slugfest with the eventual game-clinching 70-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left in regulation to preserve a 30-24 Sherman Husky win.
A lot has changed from 2016 to 2017, but the rivalry lives strong with two schools doing whatever they can to progress enough to the point of contending for a state championship.
From their 50-12 victory over Falls City on Aug. 31 to now, the added depth and the play of the newcomers and athletes playing larger roles has given Dufur a No. 4 ranking and an unblemished record.
“We’ve made steady progress,” Henderson said. “We got a little banged up early, but are finally at full strength this week for the first time.”
Fans can listen to the broadcast on Y-102 FM or stream it on the computer or the phone by logging in to www.gorgecountry.com at 7 p.m. on Homecoming night from Dufur High School.