COTTAGE GROVE — The bigger, more physical team bulldozed itself to the Class 3A state football championship.
And it wasn’t the Cascade Christian Challengers.
The Rainier Columbians denied Cascade Christian a repeat title with 44-14 victory on Don King Field at Cottage Grove High Saturday
The top-seeded Columbians (13-0) used a bruising running attack and an impressive defensive effort to seize momentum in the second half and secured their second state championship to go with one in 2010.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage,” said Rainier seventh-year coach Mike King. “To pitch a shutout in the second half against the highest scoring team in the state is surprising.”
Rainier’s diesel offensive formation, which bunches a pair of linemen in the backfield in front of quarterback Joey Tripp and junior running back David Katon, proved pretty much unstoppable.
Tripp, the sixth of seven brothers to suit up for Rainier over the years, rushed for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
“You find a hole and pound and keep pounding” is how Tripp described the Columbians’ offense. “The diesel is just a powerhouse offense.”
Even when the Challengers (11-2) seemed to have Tripp stopped, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior still seemed to fall forward 5 or 6 yards. And then he got loose for some big chunks, too.
Tripp ripped off a 37-yard run to the Cascade Christian 25 on the opening possession of the game to set up his own 5-yard touchdown plow up the middle to complete an eight-play, 71-yard drive.
The Challengers answered right back on a 30-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Kiegan Schaan to John Fralich on a go pattern up the right sideline with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter. Ethan Hoffman’s extra-point kick gave Cascade Christian a 7-6 lead.
Fralich, the team’s leading receiver, was limited to just two more catches for 12 yard the rest of the game.
“They definitely took advantage of our blunders and turned them into points,” said Fralich. “It was pretty big not scoring in the third quarter.”
Cascade Christian made its best defensive stand of the game on Rainier’s next time with the ball. The Columbians drove from their 26 to the Challengers’ 23 but were stopped short on a fourth-down pass to Devion Godfrey in the flat.
The Challengers took a 14-6 lead on Kristian Fralich’s 23-yard sweep for a TD to cap a 12-play, 74-yard drive.
But unfortunately for Cascade Christian, that was all the scoring it could manage while the Columbians put up 38 unanswered points.
Junior David Katon, the other running back in the diesel attack, gashed the Challengers for 175 yards on 24 carries and four touchdowns.
Katon’s first TD, a 21-yard sweep left, with 1:40 remaining in the half, and Tripp’s extra-point bull rush up the middle tied the game 14-all.
“I was reading my cutbacks real good,” said Katon, a 5-10, 160-pound junior. “I like running downhill. I saw the field real good tonight.”
A lot of the Columbians’ running came behind major college recruit Easton Crape. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle had an impact on both sides of the ball.
“We came out and did the same things we did all year,” said Crape. “It’s a ground-and-pound offense. We keep smashing until you can’t hang anymore.”
When John Fralich could not corral a low pass from Schaan at the Rainier 7-yard line on fourth down on Cascade Christian’s first possession of the second half, the game began to turn in the Columbians’ favor.
“It comes down to a game of momentum,” Cascade Christian coach Jon Gettman said. “They wore us down defensively.”
After stopping the Challengers, Tripp broke off a 41-yard run to the 1, and on the next play, Katon completed the nine-play drive and gave the Columbians a lead they would never relinquish.
Rainier finished with 444 rushing yards and 475 total yards and held the Challlengers to a season-low 195 yards.
Luke Smith led Cascade’s ground game with 58 yards and Kristian Fralich added 47. Schaan was 5 of 17 passing for 57 yards and three interceptions. The usually elusive Schaan was held to 17 yards running on nine carries.
“They got us out of our game but we couldn’t get them out of their game,” said Gettman. “There was great growth on our team this year. We competed hard and made a great run through the playoffs.”
And came up one win short for the school’s fourth state championship.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or email@example.com
RAINIER 44, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 14
At Cottage Grove High
R — J. Tripp 5 run (run failed)
CC — J. Fralich 30 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)
CC — K. Fralich 23 run (Hoffman kick)
R — Katon 16 run (J. Tripp run)
R — Katon 1 run (J. Tripp run)
R — Katon 30 run (J. Tripp run)
R — Katon 33 run (run failed)
R — Katon 16 run (J. Tripp run)
R — J. Tripp 1 run (J. Tripp run)
Cascade Christian — L. Smith 13-58, K. Fralich 6-47, Schaan 9-17, E. Smith 3-12, Lewis 1-4.
Rainier — J. Tripp 34-261, Katon 24-175, K. Tripp 3-9, Howell 1-1, Team 2-(-2).
Cascade Christian — Schaan 5-17-3 57.
Rainier — J. Tripp 2-3-0 31.
Cascade Christian — J. Fralich 3-42, K. Fralich 1-9, L. Smith 1-6.
Rainier — Katon 2-31.