DUFUR – With the score tied at 22-all early in the third quarter, Dufur head coach Jack Henderson called on his rugged running duo of Ian Cleveland and Hagen Pence to carry the load.
The Bruise Brothers delivered with a combined 211 second-half yards on 21 rushes, as the No. 2-ranked Rangers broke open a 22-all tie with 32 unanswered points in a 54-22 victory over the Sherman Huskies Friday in Dufur.
“They were both so impressive today,” Henderson said. “I am pleased with Hagen and Ian and the way they ran the ball. Our offensive line also did a nice job up front to give them the room. They are both such loads to tackle, they run with such heart and they run downhill all the time and just do amazing things.”
On one end, the Ranger offense had everything working, and the defense bottled up quarterback Jacob Justesen and company, holding Sherman to 33 total yards on 22 plays from scrimmage in the final 24 minutes.
In their five second-half possessions, the Huskies went 0 for 5 on third downs, allowed two sacks and had two plays garner more than six yards or more.
The Huskies punted three times, had one drive end in a loss of downs and committed a turnover, using eight minutes and 28 seconds of time in the second half.
“The coaches gave us a good speech during halftime, and we just went out there and executed,” Pence said. “We knew that they can run plays out of every type of formation, so we just went back to our keys on how to stop them and executed that. It was a matter of being at the right spot, getting the big hits and doing our duties, and that’s just what happened.”
Ahead by a 28-22 margin in the third quarter, all the momentum changed in Dufur’s favor, as the team scored three times in a span of 5:31 on the clock.
Ranger quarterback Derek Frakes tossed a 38-yard swing pass to running back Asa Farrell, and following a fourth-down stand by the Dufur defense on Sherman’s next possession, Frakes hit an open Cole Kortge from eight yards out on a third down goal, making it a 40-22 score with 11:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Dufur recovered the ensuing onside kick on the Sherman 35, and then Cleveland rushed twice for 19 yards, Pence added a six-yard run and hit the end zone on the next play from 10 yards away to run the lead to 46-22.
Following a Sherman punt on its next possession, Dufur went on a five-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 28-yard scamper by Pence, his career-best fifth of the game. Frakes connected with Curtis Crawford on the conversion pass and the Rangers were in front, 54-22 with 5:05 remaining.
“We came out sluggish and we just weren’t ready to play football in the second half. I don’t know why,” Sherman senior Treve Martin said. “We had a great first half down eight points. Even though we were down eight, I thought we had momentum and I felt like we had the game. That third quarter was a snowball effect and we just couldn’t stop it.”
In the first half, the Huskies scored on their opening drive of the game, with Bradley Moe racking up 18 yards on the ground and Justesen hitting an open Keenan Coles for a 56-yard strike.
The Rangers took the lead, 8-6, at the 6:24 mark of the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown run by Cleveland and a conversion run by Abraham Kilby, and then the Rangers stopped a fourth and 1 attempt on the Huskies’ next possession.
On the very next play, Pence rumbled 14 yards for a score and Farrell added the conversion for a 16-6 Ranger advantage.
Sherman needed just two plays on its next time with the ball to inch closer – a 30-yard pass from Justesen to Martin and a 35-yard scramble by Justesen, which dropped the deficit to two points, 16-14, with 3:27 left in the opening half.
Dufur added its final score of the first half, following a 43-yard kickoff return by Tanner Masterson, on a five-yard run by Cleveland and a four-yard end zone trip by Pence, for a 22-14 Ranger cushion.
The Huskies came up empty on their first possession of the second half, but following a punt, the Rangers fumbled the ball away on the next snap and Justesen scooped up the loose ball and coasted to the end zone from 28 yards away.
Justesen and Martin hooked up on the conversion pass to tie the score at 22-all.
Pence would eventually give the Rangers the lead for good, at 28-22, as he capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a 12-yard run with 8:05 on the clock.
“It took a while for them to get their feet under them and things like that, but they did get their feet under them and that was the difference in the second half,” Henderson said. “I loved our focus and stuff. Although we got hit in the mouth in this game, thankfully we got hit in the mouth by a big, strong, physical football team, we kept working hard and were eventually able to get the job done in the end.”
For the game, Dufur rushed 56 times for 418 yards. Pence paced the rush game with 201 yards on 23 carries and his career-high five touchdowns.
Cleveland added 134 yards on 11 attempts and a score, and Farrell added 45 yards on eight carries.
Frakes totaled 56 yards on 5 of 6 passes to go with two touchdowns.
Farrell had 38 yards on his scoring grab, Kortge netted eight on his only catch, Pence added eight yards on two receptions, and Crawford was good for six yards on one catch.
“I always tell our line that they are the best in the state. I believe it,” Cleveland said. “They may not necessarily be the biggest, I mean Tabor McLaughlin is a small guy, but he just blocks his tail off. Through them, that has allowed us to run hard and make big plays.”
In all, the Huskies posted 91 yards passing and rushed 36 times for 128 yards.
Justesen was 3 of 10 for 91 yards and a score, with Coles leading the way with two catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Martin had one grab totaling 30 yards on his four targets.
On the ground, Justesen had nine attempts for 52 yards and a touchdown, Moe added 57 yards on 17 totes and Blake hit for 19 yards on six rushes.
Sherman (3-3 overall, 1-1 league) has a bye week, then hosts Arlington-Condon at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20, senior night.
Through the first six games, the Huskies have played Triad, Wallowa and Dufur, all top-10 teams, and lost, but Somnis feels they have played tough in those contests.
“Every one of those games, we did a lot of things, as a team, that hurt our own chances. We kind of sabotaged ourselves in a lot of situations,” Somnis said. “Those are things that are going to help us moving forward. Obviously, in the last couple of league games we have been tested. We have seen some good teams and we now know what it takes, so I am really excited to see how we go down the stretch here.”
Dufur (5-0, 2-0) next travels to Arlington for a league contest at 7 p.m. on Thursday against No. 13 Arlington-Condon (5-1, 1-0), which defeated Prairie City 66-0 on Thursday.