LA PINE — In the moments after La Pine scored to go ahead by two points with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining, it seemed as if the No. 6 Hawks could pull off a victory over No. 11 Rainier and earn a win in their first playoff game since 2008.
But 1:40 proved to be too much time. Joey Tripp passed for two first downs and then ran for another on the Columbians’ last-chance drive. With 35 seconds left, the Rainier quarterback rushed for 9 yards, fumbled but recovered the loose ball for a touchdown. Tripp ran into the end zone to convert the ensuing two-point try, allowing Rainier to escape with a 28-22 win in the first round of the Class 3A football state playoffs.
Rainier’s Jacob Bruce sealed the game with an interception, ending what had been, until moments before, a perfect season for the Hawks.
“They played their hearts out,” La Pine coach Bo DeForest said as players and coaches walked off the frozen field.
“They brought back pride to this community that had been gone for a long time. They’ve paved the way, been the trailblazers, set the course for the guys in the future. No matter what success comes after this, it will all be owed to them. They may go down as one of the greatest classes to ever come through La Pine.”
The Columbians (8-2) threatened to run away with the game in the first quarter. Tripp scored on a 24-yard run and Rainier immediately recovered a La Pine fumble on the following drive. But Eddie Price intercepted Tripp to halt Rainier’s momentum, and the Hawks (9-1) got on the scoreboard with a safety with 25 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Ben Plant, who made carry after carry throughout the night, capped a five-minute second-quarter drive with a 1-yard touchdown to tie the game 8-8 heading into halftime.
Rainier struck first in the second half, this time on an 11-yard carry by Dawson Carr, but Carr was stopped short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt.
Once again, the Hawks responded with a steady march down the field that ate up the rest of the third quarter. On third down and goal, Angelo Roes scrambled all over the field before finding his mark in the end zone, and Plant ran in the conversion to put La Pine up 16-14.
But despite a tackle for loss by the La Pine defense — and a penalty for chop blocking — Tripp resurrected the drive with a 31-yard pass on a lengthy fourth down, which was caught by a diving Carr 5 yards short of the end zone. One play later, the Columbians had regained the advantage.
“We did the best we could, they’re both good athletes,” DeForest said of his team’s efforts to slow down Carr and Tripp, who led a Rainier offense that averaged nearly 43 points per game during the regular season. “They’re tough to contain, they’re going to have some plays, and they made some plays tonight.”
Rainier advances to next week’s quarterfinal round and will play the winner of Saturday’s first-round game between No. 3 Nyssa and No. 14 Blanchet Catholic.
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