“We only had 12 players, which I think was the fewest that we’ve ever had in a game,” said Henderson. “Our freshman quarterback Jacob Kent did a great job in his first game, and he threw a touchdown pass and he did a nice job directing our offense, so that was good to see. It was a good game and the kids who played, played hard and finished the game, so that’s what we want.”
Dufur (4-0 Special District 2, 4-2 overall) played without four starters as senior defensive end Isaac Anthony (ankle surgery), junior wide receiver Marshall McLaughlin (knee injury), Taylor (separated shoulder) and Pence (concussion) were unable to play against the Rockets (1-3 SD2, 2-3 overall).
Despite the extenuating circumstances, the Rangers came out and played tough in a seesaw contest that included four lead changes and three ties.
After an exchange of possessions at the outset of the game, sophomore Olson Meanus returned a Rocket punt 32 yards to the Pilot Rock 30-yard line, giving the Rangers excellent field position. A four-play drive was capped by a nine-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Cody Phillips (38 carries, 272 yards rushing, two TDs). Kent (3-for-8 passing, 61-yards, TD) tossed a two-point conversion to junior tight end Landon Ellis, putting Dufur up 8-0 with 5:42 left in the first quarter.
Pilot Rock answered on its ensuing possession, knotting it 8-8. The Rangers responded with a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive, capped by Kent’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Phillips, giving Dufur a 14-8 lead with 1:51 left in the quarter. Pilot Rock tied the game 14-14 after one quarter and outscored Dufur 14-8 to take a 28-22 halftime advantage.
Dufur overcame the deficit by scoring 18 unanswered points to build a double-digit third quarter advantage. An eight-play, 59-yard drive was capped by a seven-yard TD run by senior Jacob Jones (26 carries, 137 yards, two TDs) and his two-point conversion put the Rangers ahead 30-28 with 7:49 left in the third quarter. The Rangers never trailed again.
The Rangers recovered a fumble on Pilot Rock’s ensuing possession and took over control on offense at the Rockets’ 35-yard line. A three-play drive concluded with a Jones five-yard TD scramble and a Phillips two-point conversion run made it 38-28 with 5:01 left in the third.
Pilot Rock fumbled on its next possession and the ball was recovered by Dufur at the Rocket 33-yard line. A five-play drive culminated with a Phillips three-yard TD run and his two-point conversion lifted the Rangers in front 46-28 with 17 seconds left in the third. Pilot Rock then responded by returning Dufur’s kickoff for a TD, making it 46-36 at the end of the third quarter. The Rockets added a TD in the fourth for the final margin.
“A two-point margin at the end was kind of fitting for the game,” said Henderson. “All of our remaining games our going to be a battle in moving forward, so we’ll continue to battle and that’s fine – that’s where we’re at.”
Dufur outgained Pilot Rock in total offense 474 yards to 397 yards, including 413 yards rushing. Dufur had the advantage in many statistical categories, including a 30-11 edge in first downs. The Rangers had possession of the ball for 33 minutes, compared to just 14 minutes for the Rockets. Dufur had 79 plays and Pilot Rock had 35.
Dufur will play its fourth consecutive road game Friday at 7 p.m. vs. the 15th-ranked Ione/Arlington Cardinals (3-2 SD2, 3-3 overall) at Ione High School. Dufur returns home to play the Imbler Panthers (2-2 SD2, 3-3 overall) Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.