COQUILLE — It’s difficult after season-ending losses to look past the season’s accomplishments. Soon enough, though, the perspective of the season overwhelms the present emotions of disappointment and grief for a career now over.
So it is and was for Coquille on Saturday, as visiting No. 11 Lost River upset the No. 6 Red Devils 17-8 behind 149 yards rushing from Jayce Fenner and two touchdown passes from Aiden McAuliffe.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this particular football team,” Coquille coach David Thomason said. “I’ve coached a lot of football teams. These guys have had more things thrown in front of them, more distractions, more everything.”
Lost River, with its relentless middle running game and tough-running backs, consistently won the line of scrimmage against the Red Devils.
In addition to Fenner’s 149 yards, with a yards per carry average of 5.7, Nolan Britton added 78 yards on the ground. Lost River had just two negative plays on the day and found success both on the ground and though the air, even if the latter was minimal in terms of yardage.
“Coming in from the long travel, it was tough on the bus and everything,” Fenner said. “But we really persevered and came in and played big boy football. That’s Raider football. My line blocked exquisitely for us and did a great job.”
Lost River and Coquille traded punts to start, then the Raiders opened the scoring with a plodding 13-play, 79-yard drive with no play going longer than 9 yards, until the touchdown, but no play going for fewer than 3.
McAuliffe ultimately connected with Myles Moore on a deep out route for an 18-yard touchdown. But Jeremy Kistner blocked the point after, helping Coquille to snatch some momentum back.
Meanwhile, though, Coquille’s offense struggled to find consistency.
The Red Devils didn’t run a play in Lost River territory on their first three drives, having one drive end on a fumble and the next ending on an interception. Kistner, though, neutralized the fumble with an interception, but the Red Devils gave it right back seven plays later when Moore picked off a Jace Haagen pass intended for Kistner, his tall junior receiver.
But then Coquille got a big play from its big-play running back, Caiden Yates.
Running Thomason’s go-to buck sweep to the right, Yates picked his way through and burst into the secondary, breaking a tackle at the Lost River 40-yard line and high-stepping out of a diving attempt several yards later, coasting into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown to tie it at 6-6. Then Ean Smith ran in the two-point conversion, giving Coquille an 8-6 lead that it took to the break.
“It got ‘em jacked up,” Yates said of the long run. “But then we stopped working as a team. It was just one time.”
At halftime, Yates had 115 yards rushing and the touchdown, but had only 35 outside of his 80-yard score. Coquille had 157 yards of total offense at the half, all rushing, but only 77 outside of Yates’ long run.
Then, in the second half, Lost River’s statistical advantages came to bear.
Fenner kept getting carries and kept productively moving the ball, eventually setting up McAuliffe’s second TD pass of the afternoon, a crosser on the first play of the fourth quarter to Giovanni Rizo that only just got through a diving Coquille defender into the arms of Rizo at the Coquille 5 and he easily skipped into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, then McAuliffe hit Moore for the two-point conversion and Lost River held a 14-8 lead with 11:53 to go.
On Coquille’s ensuing drive, the Red Devils got down to the Raiders 22-yard line, with Yates and Smith doing all the damage on the ground.
But the Raiders stopped the drive short there, holding Yates to zero yards on fourth-and-2, handing the ball back to Lost River with 7:30 to play and the lead.
Lost River calmly, and slowly, moved 60 yards in 11 plays, setting up a 36-yard field goal for Jorge Palomar with about two minutes left. His kick was barely tipped at the line, but had enough leg to easily clear the crossbar, giving the Raiders a two-score lead with not much time on the clock.
It ultimately didn’t matter, though, as Coquille fumbled on its first play of the next drive, and Lost River ran the clock out and escaped with the win.
“They’re a great team,” Yates said. “They’re a great team. And they work as a team, too.”
For Coquille, though, it wasn’t a season wasted.
The Red Devils moved down to the Sunset Conference and won the league in what Thomason was expecting to be a rebuilding year. Lots of young players got experience in league games and a playoff game.
Frustrating and disappointing? Yes, absolutely. The end of the world? No, absolutely not.
“It’ll take me some time,” Thomason said. “But I imagine by Tuesday afternoon I’ll be back at it getting ready for next year.”
Lost River, meanwhile, travels to Neah-Kah-Nie for the quarterfinals. The Pirates beat Sunset Conference runner-up Bandon on Friday night.