MADRAS—Coach Mike Waine never thought this day would come.
After suffering through years of 2-7 or 1-6 and struggling in the 8-man bracket, the players and coaches never gave up.
Following a 6-6 deadlock at the half, Tanner Davis tossed a pair of second-half touchdowns of 17 and 35 yards to Garrett Olson and the suffocating South Wasco County defense allowed 77 second-half yards, forced two loss of down and a punt and recovered three fumbles on Joseph’s final six possessions in a 19-6 Redsides six-man championship victory tonight in Madras.
“It’s heart. It’s all heart,” Waine said. “We challenged these guys at our first practice in daily doubles back in August. We asked them if they wanted to go win a championship or just settle down and have fun. They wanted to fight, so we fought every day. We practiced hard and we trained hard. We knew entering this season that this could be the year that we could make a run at it and we did it.”
The Joseph Eagles were unbeaten for the past 13 games as a six-man program.
In that span, they never trailed in a game and teams other than SWC had been outscored by Joseph 712-52 for an average score of 64.7 to 4.7, so South Wasco County needed to be perfect on Saturday to come out on top.
The Eagles had three first-half scoring opportunities, but could only muster one touchdown.
On the Eagles’ opening drive, Olson chased down senior running back Carson Littlepage on a 52-yard run and possible touchdown and Joseph was held without a point.
After scoring on a 24-yard scamper by Juston Rogers at the 3:13 mark of the first period, Joseph held a 6-0 lead, until SWC responded on its next drive.
The Redsides used five plays and took advantage of two penalties, before senior quarterback Tanner Davis connected with Olson on a 5-yard touchdown pass to even the score at 6-6 with 45 seconds left in the half.
The Eagles then drove from the Redside 33 down inside the red zone and inched the ball to the SWC 1-yard line.
On a first and goal from the Redside 7, Rogers was tackled at the one as time expired, keeping the game knotted at 6-apiece.
“That play was huge. It fired us up,” senior lineman Timo Hisatake said. “Our defense was there and we played hard. We all played to the best of our ability and we held them. We had our confidence high and our energy was high and we played probably our best game of the season.”
Both teams traded two scoreless drives apiece at the start of the second half, when Olson recovered a fumble on a backwards pass at the 1:18 mark of the third quarter.
Four plays later, Davis and Olson hooked up again on a third down play from 12 yards out and then the two matched forces on the conversion to make it 13-6 with 9:42 left in regulation.
On Joseph’s next possession, Dominic Marquez recovered a fumble, giving SWC the ball on the 39-yard line, and the Davis-to-Olson combination tacked on a bit of insurance with a 35-yard touchdown which made it 19-6, at the 7:22 mark.
SWC senior Bobby Kately recovered a fumble on Joseph’s third consecutive turnover, and following a Redside punt, Joseph had the ball for just under two minutes and were held to a loss of downs.
Davis capped the game with two kneel downs to finish the victory.
“To top it off in my senior year is a great moment and it is an amazing experience to share this with this group of players,” Davis said. “This team suffered through a lot and we pushed through it. Injuries aside, we showed that we are one hell of a team and I am proud of every one of them.”
The Redsides managed four yards rushing on 17 attempts, but did most of their damage through the air, as Davis and Olson combined to go 16 of 37 for 209 yards.
Davis completed 13 of 31 passes and had three scores to go with 177 yards.
Olson, who tossed for 32 yards on 3 of 6, hauled in nine passes for 143 yards, and Davis had two grabs that equaled 27 yards.
Tyler Smith (five yards), Kately (6), Hisatake (11), and Eli Malefyt (17) had their totals on one catch apiece, and Malefyt rushed for 13 yards on three totes.
SWC gave up 231 yards and recovered three fumbles, by Olson, Marquez and Kately, and Marquez, Hisatake and James Best posted a quarterback sack each.
Earlier in the week, Hisatake received news that he had won all-league honors, but got as high as second team for his play on the defensive line.
So, the senior had some extra motivation.
“I wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Hisatake said. “I wanted to prove to all the doubters who said that I wasn’t a first team player wrong. I played hard and hit them hard. Being able to do that and to win a championship makes feel really good.”
Olson, the two-time Player of the Year, headlined a group of two juniors, two freshmen, a sophomore and four seniors to a 6-2 record and a scoring margin of 330-132.
“Winning a championship has always been a dream of mine and I am so glad this team could make it happen,” Olson said. “It took a lot of hard and fighting through injuries. We were in a lot of pain, but our guys came back and fought through them to make it happen. I am extremely happy to have this team realize their potential. It feels amazing.”
Kately soaked in the post-game chaos with a smile on his face.
He learned a lot about his character and what it will take to be a productive adult.
“I can’t take credit on my own. It takes six people out on that field to stop those guys and get touchdowns,” Kately said. “We all worked very hard. I love being a part of this team. They have all made me realize a lot about myself. It takes teamwork and everything else to be successful. Going into the Marines, it is going to help tremendously. I will never forget what I learned here.”