NORTH BEND — Powers head coach Tim Stallard knew the 2017 campaign for the Cruisers' football team would be a learning process.
After the big, fast and experienced Hosanna Christian Lions beat the Cruisers 52-26 Saturday afternoon in the Eight-Man Classic at North Bend High School, he learned that his group isn’t going to turn away from adversity.
“They got a lot of heart,” Stallard said. “There aren’t very many of ‘em, and some of them this was their first football game ever. It’s a learning experience. I’m happy with ‘em. They don’t give up. They fight. We got some bugs to work out on offense and defense, but I’m happy with how we played. We’ll get better as the season goes along.”
Due to the somewhat chaotic state of Oregon at the moment, the original field of six teams for the North Bend event was reduced to just four, and Hosanna Christian and Powers weren’t even supposed to play.
But, finally, the schedule was set Thursday night after Days Creek and Powder Valley pulled out and Powers faced the Lions at 3 p.m. instead of the scheduled 6 p.m. game against Powder Valley.
The Lions, hailing from Klamath Falls, scored 36 of the game’s last 42 points to turn a tie game right before halftime into a blowout, and Powers had to work hard to get it to that point.
After the teams traded fumbles on their initial possessions, Hosanna running back Silas Sanchez took an option pitch from quarterback Waylan Cole and appeared to be hemmed in, but made a great cut to his right and ran back across the field, leaving the Powers defense behind him for a 6-0 Lions lead barely a minute into the game.
Powers went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and punted to Sanchez, who fielded the kick at his own 46-yard line and went up the far sideline, again appearing to be tracked down. But he broke free, breaking a couple tackles, and sprinted down Hosanna’s sideline for a 12-0 Lions lead with 9:30 on the clock. Cole hit Jacob Moore for the two-point conversion and Hosanna lead 14-0.
Powers, though, hadn’t quit on itself.
“It’s never over,” Jamason Kellogg said of the mindset down two scores early. “You can make it work. You can make anything work.”
The Powers defense came to life, holding the Lions to consecutive three-and-outs while its offense showed signs it was emerging. Ethan Gregorio started getting more carries after Kellogg was the initial focal point and ran hard and effectively and Powers moved to the Hosanna Christian 35 before the drive stalled when Clancy Standley’s pass to David Pedrick fell incomplete with about two minutes left in the first quarter.
Powers forced Hosanna’s second straight three-plays-and-punt drive of the first quarter and scored in six plays, capped by a Gregorio 3-yard plunge. The senior running back carried three times on the drive, once breaking a 7-yard run, to get Powers down the field. Powers’ two-point conversion failed, leaving the Cruisers down 14-6.
The Cruisers then recovered an onside kick, getting the ball at Hosanna’s 44. Kellogg broke a 14-yard run on the drive’s first play to get things rolling, then a defensive pass interference penalty on fourth down kept the drive alive and moved the ball to the Hosanna 19. After a holding penalty by the Cruisers, Stallard dialed up a smart throwback pass where Standley rolled out to his right then turned around and hit Gregorio, who had essentially just turned around and stood at the snap. Gregorio had a bunch of space, as the Lions defense followed the flow of Standley’s rollout, and waltzed into the end zone to cut Hosanna’s lead to two at 14-12. Powers’ two-point conversion was just short.
Hosanna scored quickly on its ensuing possession after recovering another Powers onside kick attempt when Sanchez caught a swing pass and ran untouched 13 yards to push the Lions ahead 20-12.
Powers punted quickly in its final second-quarter possession, giving Hosanna a chance to score before the half, but the Cruisers defense came up with points.
Kellogg stepped in front of Moore to intercept a pass and raced to the end zone, stepping around a would-be tackler at the 1-yard line and raising his arms as Powers tied Hosanna at 20 points a piece.
“We started working as a team more,” Kellogg said.
But the Lions still had another shot before halftime, and Cole hit on three passes in the drive — one to Sanchez for 6 yards, one to Landon Watah for 23 yards, and the dagger to Moore from 20 yards out that. The two-point conversion run by Sanchez pushed Hosanna ahead for good 28-20.
The Lions added three more touchdowns in the second half: two runs by Sanchez (16 and 36 yards) and a 28-yard catch-and-run by Watah. Sanchez, with his athletic and strong running style, wore down the undermanned and inexperienced Powers defense in the second half. He finished with 143 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Cole threw for 178 yards on 13-of-19 passing with three scores and an interception.
For Powers, Gregorio rushed for 36 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and also caught two passes for 31 yards and a score. Kellogg rushed for 36 yards on 18 carries and also threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter to cap to 10-play drive on a clever play.
Powers lined up in a spread-out four-receiver set with Kellogg in the shotgun. The junior took the snap and ran right, similar to a successful play earlier in the drive that went for 26 yards. Except this time he stopped short and found Mac Hoffman, who caught and easily scored a 10-yard touchdown to cut Hosanna’s lead to 38-26 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
Standley, the starting quarterback for the Cruisers, was 4-of-8 passing for 39 yards and the touchdown to Gregorio.
In a change from its original schedule, Powers wraps up its nonleague slate at Class 3A Rogue River, which is playing an independent schedule and will play the Cruisers in the eight-man format — the Chieftains beat Myrtle Point during the opening week and will play Gold Beach next week.
Stallard hopes the challenging preseason is a crash course for the learning Cruisers.
“I knew we were gonna have a lot of learning to do and we have a good preseason schedule to do it,” Stallard said. “Rogue River next week, I think we’ll go down there and compete.”
In the earlier game Saturday, Camas Valley beat North Douglas 44-24.