Facing a Scio team bent on grinding out possessions with its physical double-wing offense, Cascade Christian flexed its own muscle Friday night in the Class 3A state quarterfinals and took the Loggers out of the contest before the first quarter was up for the second straight year.
Using a staunch defensive approach that didn’t allow Scio to gain a first down until nearly 20 minutes had been played, the Challengers were able to take control right away and score a crushing 57-8 win here on a bone-chilling night at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
Third-seeded Cascade Christian (10-1) limited the No. 6 Loggers to 160 total yards and forced three turnovers in a dominant effort reminiscent of last year’s state semifinals, when the Challengers jumped out to a three-touchdown lead through one quarter and eased to a 49-28 triumph.
“They’re a shove it down your throat, no give up, no mercy team so we knew we had to pin it down on defense,” said Cascade Christian senior Luke Smith, who posted a team-high 10 tackles. “That was our No. 1 priority and once we got that done we could execute on offense.”
And execute the Loggers (8-3) they most certainly did on a night that dipped to 36 degrees before the final horn sounded.
Cascade Christian scored on its opening five possessions on offense after defensively holding Scio without a first down to build a 35-0 cushion about 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.
“We knew this was probably going to be the most mentally and physically tough game we’ve had all season,” added Smith. “They’re a tough team and not a team to underestimate or anything like that. We just got on them early and did not take our foot off their throats.”
Cascade Christian will have to wait for the outcome of today’s game between No. 2 Amity and No. 10 Nyssa before learning who it will face in the semifinals and where that game will be. A win by Amity likely would mean a trip to Cottage Grove next Saturday; a win by Nyssa might mean playing in Bend.
“We’re not sure who we’ll play,” said Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman, “but it’s a blessing to spend another week together.”
Key to the Challengers’ ability to stymie Scio was the play up front on the defensive line, which opened things up for linebackers like Smith to come in and rack up tackles.
Junior nose tackle Grant Couzens — the biggest Challenger at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds — managed to hold his ground in the middle to take away the dive play, with fellow linemen Dylan Jackson, Cole Ferguson, Spencer Weeks, Logan Flenner and Cody Miller helping close the interior gaps Scio had hoped to find success navigating.
“It was fun but really I just needed to rely on my teammates,” said Couzens of his role. “I know if I do my job that they’ll just be flying to the ball and that they’ll be getting those tackles and those sacks. It’s just all about them. I’m very humbled to be playing with the amazing people I’m playing with.”
Couzens finished with eight tackles, tying safeties Kiegan Schaan and John Fralich and linebacker Weeks for second-most on this night. Ferguson made seven tackles and a fumble recovery, while Schaan and Ian Fralich each had an interception.
“I just have one job and it’s not about getting tackles,” added Couzens. “It’s about me clogging up that center because then that releases everybody to be able to fly to the ball. It’s a super-fun job, I enjoy it.”
Limiting the Loggers to only three first downs in the first half and 11 overall also had a positive carryover on the offensive side for Cascade Christian.
“That sets the tone,” said Gettman. “If you can come out defensively and get a few stops and then a few drives, it changes the dynamics of the game. It gets them out of their mode and gets the momentum on our side.”
That proves especially important against a team like Scio, which is capable of holding onto the ball for long periods at a time, if it doesn’t break a big-gainer to cap a drive.
“It allowed our offense to get into a flow,” added Gettman, “because usually they have the ball for, as you saw at times, eight minutes at a time and you’re just out of sync, especially on a cold night like this. It was great to have that and I thought Kiegan was able to get into a groove throwing the ball and that proved to be huge.”
With the help of a big third-down conversion by Kristian Fralich on a swing pass by Schaan, the Challengers were able to cap the first drive of the game with a touchdown when Schaan connected on a 10-yard slant to John Fralich just 2 1/2 minutes into the contest.
The score moved to 14-0 about three minutes later when Schaan found Kristian Fralich for a 43-yard touchdown, and 21-0 2 1/2 minutes after that on a repeat effort by the duo, this time from 25 yards out. Kristian Fralich finished with six catches for 149 yards.
John Fralich followed with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage against Scio standout Kade Mask on a fourth-and-2 play to turn the ball back over to Cascade Christian at the Scio 28-yard line. Moments later, Smith burst through a big hole for a 5-yard score — the first of his four TD runs.
Smith finished with 141 yards on 17 carries, with TD runs of 5 and 3 yards in the first half and 33 and 8 yards in the second half. The Challengers finished with 483 yards overall.
“That is not me, that is all my offensive line,” said the 5-10, 190-pounder. “I couldn’t get a single yard without them. I’m incredibly thankful for them.”
It was 35-0 by halftime, with Scio only managing to reach the Challengers’ 37-yard line, with a little help from a nice pass breakup by senior Cade Sample on a throwback that could have been a Scio score without his alert play.
“We came out fired up ready to execute and ready to go,” said Schaan, who completed 12 of 18 passes for 207 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. “We had the mindset that they weren’t going to run it up on us and we didn’t let that happen tonight.”
The only real negative for the Challengers came at the start of the second half, when standout kicker Ethan Hoffman aggravated a previous leg injury due to the cold temperatures. That meant Cascade Christian had to go for two-point conversions in the second half, and Hoffman was limited on kickoffs.
Scio chewed 7 1/2 minutes off the clock on its opening drive of the third quarter, scoring on a 14-yard TD pass from David Simmons to Daniel Simmons. A two-point conversion made it 35-8, but Flenner recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Challengers were in the end zone shortly thereafter on a 6-yard TD run by Elijah Smith, who ran for 59 yards to complement his older brother and Schaan’s 80 rushing yards.
CC — J. Fralich 10 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)
CC — K. Fralich 43 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)
CC — K. Fralich 25 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)
CC — L. Smith 5 run (Hoffman kick)
CC — L. Smith 3 run (Hoffman kick)
S — Dan. Simmons 14 pass from Dav. Simmons (Dan. Simmons run)
CC — E. Smith 6 run (I. Fralich pass from Schaan)
CC — L. Smith 33 run (pass failed)
CC — L. Smith 8 run (E. Smith run)