HILLSBORO — Marshfield’s dream of the school’s first state football title in a quarter century was stopped Saturday by a barrage of big plays by Cottage Grove as the Lions topped the Pirates 48-14 in the Class 4A championship game at Hillsboro Stadium.
Marshfield appeared to have momentum heading into the halftime locker room after a touchdown cut Cottage Grove’s lead to 28-14, but the Pirates never got anything consistent going on offense in the second half and the Lions scored 20 points in the third quarter to blow the game open.
So when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Lions celebrating the first title in school history.
“I’m proud of our kids,” said Cottage Grove coach Gary Roberts, who finally got the championship blue trophy in his third attempt — the Lions lost to North Bend last year and to Ridgeview back in 2013.
“We finally got over the hump. I was really happy for our seniors after how close they came last year.”
Marshfield, meanwhile, was looking ahead hoping for a return trip to the title game with a big group of juniors expected to be back.
“We have a big chip on our shoulder now,” said Cory Stover, who had one of Marshfield’s two touchdowns Saturday. “I have confidence we will make it back.”
The Pirates were undone in the championship game this year by mistakes and by the big-play Cottage Grove offense.
After the Lions methodically drove the field on the game’s opening possession, with Chad Bottorff scoring on a 1-yard run to cap a 15-play march, they turned mostly to big plays the rest of the way.
Explosive senior Jacob Woods had seven catches for 146 yards, including three touchdowns, for the Lions.
The first of those was a 43-yard score on a screen pass from Dylan Graves with four seconds to go in the first quarter and the second came less than 20 seconds later, in terms of game time, on a 32-yard pass one play after teammate Hayden Glenn intercepted a pass by Marshfield’s Grant Woolsey.
That was one of four costly turnovers, two of which led to Cottage Grove points.
“We just made too many mistakes,” Marshfield coach John Lemmons said. “We turned the ball over too much.”
The Pirates also had a few crucial false start penalties that stalled a couple of drives.
“It’s hard to win against a good football team turning it over and making mistakes,” Lemmons said.
Woods said the turnovers were particularly big for the Lions.
“That was a big help,” he said, adding that the Lions got big emotional lifts from the various big plays.
In the second half, Cottage Grove got its first score on Woods’ third score, a 38-yard screen pass. The second came on a 60-yard fumble return by Juice Claflin after Glenn sacked Woolsey on a fourth-down play.
Claflin added Cottage Grove’s final score, and the last TD of the game, on a 9-yard run later in the third quarter.
Most of the Lions were key parts of the squad that lost to North Bend in last year’s championship game.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Woods said. “I’m at a loss for words.
“This was our goal from the beginning of the year.”
Woods was the top target for Graves, who finished 10-for-13 passing for 193 yards and was rarely pressured by Marshfield’s defense.
Bottorff rushed for 61 yards and Claflin 41 for the Lions.
Tristin Lemmons, another of the Marshfield juniors, gained 102 yards on 20 carries, providing a spark in the power running game. But as a team, Marshfield only had 114 rushing yards.
The Pirates passed for 187 yards, with Woolsey connecting on five of 14 attempts for 132 yards and Justin Banks going 4-for-8 for 55 yards.
The biggest passing highlight was an 85-yard touchdown strike from Woolsey to Zach Kellar on a crossing route that led to a sprint down the sideline to briefly tie the game at 7-all in the first quarter. The other touchdown was a 3-yard pass to Stover in the flat of the end zone after Marshfield had marched most of the field on the ground in the second quarter.
Kellar said Marshfield had a lot to be proud of.
“I gave everything I could,” he said. “I don’t regret anything. I left it all on the field.
“We played with a lot of effort.”
But that wasn’t enough against the opportunistic Lions.
“They were a well-coached team,” he said.
Roberts said the same of the Pirates.
“They played well,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of great kids.
“I know John (Lemmons) is going to have Marshfield back again.”
That’s the plan for the Pirates after reaching the championship game for the first time since 1994.
“It’s a huge message,” junior lineman Aiden Adams said of reaching the title game. “We came into the season and nobody expected us to do this well.
“We showed the doubters. (Losing) is the second best thing that could have happened. This will be the biggest motivation any of us can have.”
For this year, Marshfield will have to settle for a runner-up finish, a banner in the rafters of Pirate Palace and a chance to soak up the championship game experience.
After the game, the players saluted the huge group of Marshfield supporters who made the trip and then exchanged congratulations with each other for the game and the season.
“I thought the kids played with a lot of energy and heart,” John Lemmons said. “They had a great season. I’m proud of them.”