COOS BAY — Facing a winless opponent for the second week in a row — with a third straight 0-for team waiting in the wings next week — the Marshfield football team had its hands full in Saturday night’s 44-38 win over Ontario.
As far away as two schools in Oregon can longitudinally be from one another, the 18-man Ontario team that is currently without a head coach after the surprising departure of Tony Cade last week made the nine-hour journey to Coos Bay. But despite any possible excuses of travel, continuity or lack of depth, the Tigers refused to be put away.
“We came out and we thought we were going to play a great game and come away with an easy W, we got kind of big heads,” said Marshfield running back Josiah Niblett. “We were happy and we were like glad that we won and finally executed in the end, but we need to fix our mistakes and clean up the bad things we did.”
After a successful opening onside kick, the Pirates scored three plays later on a Dom Montiel 5-yard rush to give the team a lead 42 seconds into the game. The next drive Montiel found DJ Daugherty, who raced to the sideline and beat the defense on the way to a 44-yard touchdown. Two scores on two drives, the Pirates looked confident and capable of running past the winless Tigers.
But helping keep Ontario in striking distance all night was the team’s ability to rattle off big plays. Tallying four plays of over 40 yards in the game, a 43-yard kick return gave the Tigers positive field position that set up a Jose Flores 2-yard touchdown run a play after Ontario converted on a fourth-down attempt.
The seesaw of a second quarter saw both teams get big chunks of yards at a time. Montiel threw two of his touchdown passes during the quarter with a 19-yard strike to Ezra Waterman and a 36-yard screen pass to Niblett.
Montiel finished the night 15-of-22 for 272 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He found four different receivers for scores and had five different receivers — DJ Daugherty, Josiah Niblett, Liam Webster, Noah Niblett and Waterman — with at least 40 receiving yards.
“Dom did some good things, but he’s a sophomore and he did some sophomore things, too,” said Marshfield head coach John Lemmons. “But he did some really good things as well.”
One of Montiel’s interceptions came late in the half as the Pirates were driving. Instead it was Ontario’s Kenji Teramura coming up with an 80-yard pick six. Teramura, the team’s quarterback, also had a 77-yard pass to Brandon Rodriguez in the quarter.
Errors plagued the Pirates throughout the contest. Marshfield was flagged for 55 yards but the timing of the penalties was more critical than the amount of yards. On back-to-back plays in the third quarter it appeared Marshfield had scored touchdowns of over 50 yards — the first was an impressive Sam Grayson punt return and the next a 60-yard run from Josiah Niblett — but penalties brought both highlight-worthy plays back.
Ontario also converted on three fourth downs throughout the night.
“It was ugly,” said Marshfield coach John Lemmons. “We just never could put them away and every time we started to get momentum and get up, we made a stupid mistake or had a mental breakdown and threw an interception or didn’t cover the right guy in our pass coverage.”
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For Marshfield, the team’s security blanket all game was Josiah Niblett. Niblett had 187 yards rushing on 18 attempts, 42 yards receiving on 4 catches and a touchdown through the air and on the ground.
“A lot of guys before the game they kept telling me, ‘Hey I want you to get so many amount of yards.’ But for me, it was just wanting to run for my teammates,” said Niblett. “And my brother getting hurt right before the half, I let him know, Noah, I’m going to run for you. I’m going to show you how much I love you.' So I just got out there and wanted to show everybody how much they mean to me.”
Noah Niblett injured his ankle on the final play of the first half and was on crutches for the second half.
Averaging over 10 yards every time he touched the ball, a steady stream of runs from Josiah Niblett got the second half started. The drive was capped with a 10-yard pass from Montiel, who evaded pressure and found Tandy Martin on fourth down for the score.
A 23-yard touchdown run from Teramura in the third quarter made it a one-score game. After a missed Marshfield field goal in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were poised to put a drive together but were stopped by the Pirates. On the ensuing drive it was Josiah Niblett breaking tackles and leveling a defender on the goal line for a 21-yard score to give Marshfield a 14-point lead with just over 4 minutes to play.
“I thought Josiah Niblett played his tail off offensively and defensively. And we’ve been encouraging him for three years now to lower his shoulder. He’s starting to do it now and it’s pretty fun to watch,” said Lemmons.
But even when it looked like it was a wrap for Ontario, Teramura found Rodriguez for a 68-yard score on fourth-and-10. Teramura was 14-of-23 for 234 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 60 yards rushing. Defensively he also had two interceptions.
“I think we played pretty well, it’s just, we got tired at the end. We weren’t focusing, we weren’t communicating as well,” said Teramura. “This game was basically an eye-opening thing that we can do this.”
Teramura’s top receiver, Rodriguez, had six catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns while running back Jose Flores had 22 rushes for 93 yards. After Rodriguez’s late score, Ontario tried an onside kick, but Marshfield recovered and ran out the clock.
Now Marshfield’s focus turns to three straight league games to close out the season. Junction City is at home next week, Elmira on the road on Oct. 18 before returning home to host Marist Catholic on Oct. 25 in the final regular-season game of the year.
And as Lemmons’ goal that he has stressed all season is still on the table.
“We want to get a win next week, go to Elmira get a win and play Marist here for a league title. That’s the goal,” he said. “We better play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight or it’s going to be ugly against Marist because they are a good, disciplined football team.”