The Dufur High football team on Friday returned to the field for the first time in 16 months after last year’s schedule was canceled because of COVID-19, and the Rangers picked up where they left off — dominating a Class 1A eight-man opponent.
The Rangers utilized a potent ground game (305 yards rushing) to overpower the visiting Rockets, 60-14. Dufur (1-0, Special District 2), guided by longtime Coach Jack Henderson, scored on three consecutive possessions and senior Cooper Bales returned an interception for a touchdown to help the Rangers build a 30-0 lead after the first quarter. Bales (2-for-5 passing, 58 yards), a 6-foot-2 quarterback/safety, scrambled into the end zone on two 1-yard touchdown runs to help the Rangers take a 14-0 lead.
“They were well focused and even after the first game frustrations that are always common in football, I thought our team had a good overall performance,” said Henderson, in his 35th season. “Everyone played really well, and this is really a pretty good group and we’re looking forward to playing a few more games with these kids. Cooper did a great job in terms of getting us moving in the right direction on offense.
“The conditions were ugly with lots of rain and cold, windy weather but it was just good to be out there playing football for the first time in a long, long time,” said Henderson. “We’re looking forward to playing a short five-game season.”
Dufur will host Crane in its next contest Friday at 2 p.m. Crane lost its opener 18-8 to Powder Valley. Dufur’s five-game schedule concludes at home April 3 against the defending 1A champion Adrian Antelopes (1-0).
“There will be some different kids on both teams when we meet Crane, but certainly our seniors will remember the loss to Crane when we played them in the 2019 quarterfinals,” said Henderson. (That 42-6, season-ending loss to Crane ended Dufur’s bid for a fourth straight 1A state championship.) “I’m sure our kids will have a special place in their heart for Crane when we see them on Friday. Crane always has some tough kids who are capable of playing well, but hopefully we’ll be able to continue our momentum and get the job done.”
Dufur junior running back Kaleb Pence (nine carries, 146 yards rushing, three TDs) helped lead the Rangers’ nearly unstoppable offense. Pence scored on a 45-yard TD run in the second quarter to help Dufur build a 44-14 halftime advantage. Pence also scored on runs of 10 and 35 yards and he four two-point conversion runs.
“Kaleb is just like a sledgehammer as a running back and he had a great game,” said Henderson. “I was really excited to see how well our offensive line played. too, in particular the quartet of Jacob Jones, August Harvey, Parker Wallace, and Trey Darden, who really did a great job.
"They were really knocking people off the ball to help solidify our running game. It was definitely an exciting way to start the season.”
Dufur led 52-14 after three quarters. Sophomore Josh Taylor (64 yards rushing) scored on a 29-yard run for the final Ranger TD in the fourth quarter.