Pioneers up their stock in TRL football
Oregon City rides the legs of Mitchell Thompson to a 42-36 win over Clackamas
The Oregon City Pioneers last week gained the inside track for a top-three finish in Three Rivers League football and, more importantly, the corresponding bye from the play-in round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
With a 42-36 win in a slugfest with Clackamas, the Pioneers improved to 3-1 in league (5-3 overall) with one league game remaining.
Its a big win for us, said Oregon City coach Kevin Strasser. It guarantees us a higher position in league than last season.
Strassers Pioneers a year ago advanced all the way to the Class 6A quarterfinals, after finishing 2-3, in fourth place in the TRL.
Heading into this Fridays league final with Lake Oswego (8-0, 4-0), the Pioneers were tied with Canby (4-4, 3-1) in second place in league, just ahead of Clackamas (4-4, 2-2).
Oregon City lost to Canby 42-20 in a Sept. 28 game in Oregon City. Clackamas and Canby meet Friday at Clackamas, while the Pioneers entertain defending state champion Lake Oswego.
Depending on the outcomes of this Fridays games, the Pioneers could end up tied for first place, tied for second place, or tied with Clackamas in third place.
The leagues top three teams get a bye from the first round of the state playoffs.
In the event of ties, the TRL determines state playoff seeding first through the outcome of head-to-head play, secondly through the outcome against other league opponents. And if that doesnt resold things, the order of finish in the OSAA power rankings at the completion of the regular season.
Through eight games, Lake Oswego, Canby, Oregon City and Clackamas were ranked sixth, 11th, 17th and 26th respectively.
Hero honors went to Oregon City senior Mitchell Thompson in last Fridays game with the Cavaliers.
Thompsons status was not known until gametime. The 5-8, 170-pound senior running back had not practiced all week, while recuperating from a high-ankle sprain, suffered in an Oct. 11 game with West Linn.
But Thompson appeared near 100 percent, as he carried the Pioneers on his back, rushing for a career-high 353 yards and five touchdowns in 29 trips with the pigskin.
Still, the Cavaliers made a game of it, battling to a 14-14 tie in the first half.
Thompson helped open things up in the third quarter, racing 59 yards to the end zone on the second play of the second half.
Oregon City senior linebacker Kale Davis picked off a pass at the Clackamas 33 on the Cavaliers first possession of the second half. Six plays later, Thompson danced into the end zone from five yards out to open up a 27-14 lead.
Dan Sherrell scored for Clackamas on a 36-yard run to narrow the gap back to six points, at 27-21.
But the Pioneers rallied around Thompson to counter with a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Oregon City quarterback Jon Hall capped off the drive with a five-yard pass to Matt Oades as the third quarter was winding down. And Hall passed to Clay Reece on the PAT to make it 35-21 Oregon City heading into the final period.
Thompson answered a Cavalier score with a 55-yard sprint to paydirt in the fourth quarter to keep the Pioneers in the drivers seat.
Clackamas junior Doonie Johnson scored on a quarterback sneak with 5:32 left to play to trim Oregon Citys lead to 42-36.
And the Cavaliers got the ball back with 2:45 remaining. But they gave it up on downs near the midfield stripe, and the Pioneers wound out the clock and celebrated the hard fought victory.
Thompson scored on runs of 22- and 36 yards in the first half.
It was the sixth time in eight games this season that Thompson had rushed for more than 200 yards.
Led by Thompson, the Pioneers last Friday out-gained the Cavaliers 461- to 385 yards in total offense.
Hall completed 9-of-18 passes for 98 yards and one touchdown.
Strasser praised Thompson and his offensive line for standout play in the victory:
Our O-Line was fantastic again 360 yards on the ground and 100 in the air. And Mitch was phenomenal 29 carries, 350 yards and five touchdowns.
Through last weeks game with Clackamas, Thompson has 223 carries for 1,913 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season.
Strasser praised Josh Miller, Mason Kloer, Trevor Wolf, Austin Phanouvong, Jeremy Hagler, Keith Arnold and Chris Mengis for their consistent play in the offensive line.
The Pioneer grid boss singled out senior lineman Michael McCoy (7 tackles, 2 sacks) and senior linebacker Kale Davis (8 tackles, one interception) for standout play on defense.
For Clackamas, Johnson completed 18-of-37 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, with just one interception. Sherrell headed the ground attack, picking up 117 yards and scoring once in 24 trips with the pigskin.