Grant Union used a first-quarter surge to distance itself from Cascade Christian and then held on to upend the Challengers 28-13 in the Class 3A football state semifinals Saturday at Summit High in Bend.
Grant Union, from John Day in Eastern Oregon, used a pair of Cascade Christian turnovers to help take a 21-0 lead in the opening quarter and came up with four turnovers overall.
On the second play of the game, Challengers quarterback Colton Cochran was intercepted to give the Prospectors prime field position at the Cascade Christian 31-yard line. Not long after, Grant Union quarterback Austin Ranft found Dalton Moore for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
The Prospectors (12-0) bumped their lead to 14-0 moments later when Connor Smith recovered a fumble by Jake Gettman and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
Cody Williams added a 2-yard TD run to cap the first-quarter scoring.
"Sometimes it doesn't go your way right off the bat and we got ourselves in a hole," said Cascade Christian head coach Andy Maurer.
The Challengers (8-4) scrambled back with a 6-yard touchdown run by Brandon Grissom, but Ranft answered with a 40-yard TD pass to Dustin Lippert to keep Cascade Christian at bay.
Grissom tacked on a 9-yard scoring run in the third quarter, but that proved to be all the scoring either team could manage in the second half.
"They held up and we fought it right down to the end," said Maurer, "but it's amazing when you're behind how fast the clock goes and when your ahead how slow it goes. This game got over quick."
Grissom, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior, finished with 157 yards rushing on 19 carries to lead the Challengers. His presence became even more important when star halfback Tyler Stickler was lost for the game after suffering an injury with about five minutes to go in the second quarter.
"I think Brandon Grissom was probably the best running back on the field," added Maurer, "and, on the line, Dustin Hutley and Matt Bohn just played their hearts out."
Bohn also finished with a team-high seven tackles, while Hutley had two sacks.
Stickler managed 40 yards on nine carries before his injury, and Connor Kirkpatrick added 43 yards on 14 attempts as Cascade Christian chalked up 248 yards rushing on 51 attempts.
The Challengers limited Grant Union to only 74 yards rushing on 31 attempts, but Ranft came up with some big completions to keep the Prospectors moving. Ranft completed 9 of 16 passes for 186 yards.
Cochran completed 3 of 11 passes for 46 yards but was intercepted three times, while Gettman was 1-for-2 passing for 28 yards. Austin Wipf was the lead receiver for the Challengers with two catches for 41 yards, while Ben Joffer hauled in a 29-yard pass and Josh Kirkland had one catch for 4 yards.
On defense, Joffer and Taylor Ost each had five tackles for the Challengers.
Grant Union advances to face Sunset League champion Gold Beach in next week's Class 3A state championship. Gold Beach defeated Regis 41-29 in Saturday's other semifinal.
At Summit High, Bend
Cascade Christian 0 7 6 0 — 13
Grant Union 21 7 0 0 — 28
GU — Moore 5 pass from Ranft (Weymouth kick)
GU — Smith 22 fumble return (Weymouth kick)
GU — Williams 2 run (Weymouth kick)
CC — Grissom 6 run (Drew Davis kick)
GU — Lippert 40 pass from Ranft (Weymouth kick)
CC — Grissom 9 run (kick failed)
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com