Southern Oregon has been home to many prominent wrestling duals over the years, mostly thanks to the history of programs like Crater, Eagle Point...
Cascade Christian senior Brandon Williams carried all the attention one could possibly muster when it came to Lost River's defensive game plan.
And it still didn't matter.
The Raiders made sure they had an eye on wherever Williams was lined up for Friday night's game at U.S. Cellular Community Park, breathing sighs of relief when he was spotted well off the field on the sidelines.
When on the field, though, Williams only generated gasps of glee from the Cascade Christian faithful as he produced one big play after another to help lead the Challengers to a 42-7 romp over the visiting Raiders.
"I was absolutely pleased with how our kids came out," said Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman. "We've got some good kids back there that can run the ball but our line had a good push all night long and, most importantly, defensively they just really shut them down and didn't let them sustain much all night."
On the first play from scrimmage, Williams burst up the middle, broke a pair of arm tackles about 15 yards downfield and then outran everyone to the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown.
The 5-foot-9 senior's third carry resulted in a 40-yard score, and his sixth and last carry — his only of the second half — went for a 91-yard touchdown that was over in the blink of an eye.
All told, Williams carried the ball six times for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He also tied sophomore Dante Olson as the Challengers' leading tackler on defense with six tackles to go with a second-quarter interception.
"He's a great player and we did know that coming in, but he's difficult to defend," said Lost River head coach Dennis Dunlea of Williams. "He caused us a lot of problems."
If you ask Williams, however, he's the last to take credit for something he knows cannot be done on his own.
"It takes all 11 guys to do that," he said of his big-play ability. "I've got an awesome line that gives me holes and I usually am either untouched or just have two guys to deal with after that. It makes it super easy for me, I'm very thankful for them."
After the one-play series put Cascade Christian (6-0) up 7-0 after only 19 seconds of play, the Challengers got the ball back on a nice interception and return by Cody Parker to set up a four-play scoring drive from the 15-yard line. Senior Levi Girardot capped the drive with an impressive fourth-down effort that saw him run left, burst back to the middle and dive across the goal line for a touchdown.
A three-and-out defensive stand put the Challenger offense back on the field and they needed only three plays to score from their own 48, with Williams doing the heavy lifting on a 40-yard end around that showed more than either of his long-distance efforts. On the score, Williams showed nifty moves to slide through a pair of would-be tacklers, then shrugged off a tackling effort by Luke Burch by essentially carrying the defender with him into the end zone over the final 5 yards.
David Sellers squashed Lost River's first true drive of the night on a fourth-down play from the Challengers' 31 when he broke through the protection and hit quarterback Tannor Stradley as he began to throw the ball. Sellers finished with five tackles and two hurries.
Five plays later, it was Girardot's turn to find pay dirt. The 6-1, 185-pounder showed sheer determination on a 43-yard TD run when he powered through the tackle attempts of Dillon Nowak and Efren Alonzo at the 30 and then raced in from there.
Girardot's impressive run came on the final play of the first quarter and left the Challengers with a 28-0 advantage that essentially secured the outcome. Girardot finished with 66 yards and two TDs on five carries, while fellow senior Josh Brite powered his way to 31 hard yards on eight carries to help Cascade Christian amass 345 yards on the ground overall.
"I'm glad that we can share the ball like that," said Williams. "If one of us is doing good and they focus on stopping that then the other can explode, it's awesome."
It's exactly the goal for the Challengers, to keep teams off balance with a host of capable runners that are willing to share the glory.
"To me we've got to get the ball in the hands of those three and it's a choose your poison deal for who you're going to stack against," said Gettman. "They work well together, too. Levi does a great job blocking for Brandon and vice versa, and Josh is kind of the unsung hero because he's always kicking out or leading up and doing all the nasty work. He's a special back, too, when he gets the ball in his hands."
Brite showed some of that open-field prowess on Cascade Christian's first possession of the second quarter, hauling in a pass from quarterback Daniel Scottow and tucking behind a lead block by Trenton Griesen for a 31-yard score that made it 35-0.
That score held up at intermission, with the Challengers tripling the Raiders' output with 271 yards gained to 94 by Lost River (4-2).
Scottow was intercepted in the end zone to deny Cascade Christian's first drive of the second half, but another quarterback pressure — this time by Griesen — forced Lost River to turn the ball over on downs at the Challengers' 7-yard line.
Two plays later, Williams took an inside handoff, burst through the middle and then picked up a key downfield block by Tanner Parker, who shoved away two defenders, to put a final stamp on the night with his 91-yard TD scamper. There was a facemask penalty by Lost River about 20 yards into his run that Williams also shrugged off by barely breaking stride.
"He just hits the hole hard and he has great vision once he gets there," said Gettman, "but he's usually getting a surge of 10 to 15 yards down the field because of the blocking, and from there it's him and he does a great job with that."
Cascade Christian's hope for a shutout was denied when Stradley went over from 2 yards out with 5.5 seconds to play against the reserve defenders. The Raiders had called timeout with 8.4 seconds to go in order to get the play in and keep from being stymied on the scoreboard.
Stradley finished with 69 yards on 12 carries and completed 7 of 19 passes for 86 yards with two interceptions. Chandler O'Grady led the Raiders with 86 yards rushing on 17 carries as Lost River was outgained 394-266.
Scottow finished 5-for-17 for 49 yards but was victimized by several dropped passes.
Lost River 0 0 0 7 — 7
Cascade Christian 28 7 7 0 — 42
CC — Williams 76 run (Parker kick)
CC — Girardot 9 run (Parker kick)
CC — Williams 40 run (Parker kick)
CC — Girardot 43 run (Parker kick)
CC — Brite 31 pass from Scottow (Parker kick)
CC — Williams 91 run (Parker kick)
LR — Stradley 2 run (Lievanos kick)
Lost River — Stradley 12-69, O'Grady 17-86, Nowak 11-21, Alonzo 1-1, Rayas 1-3.
Cascade Christian — Williams 6-222, Girardot 5-66, Brite 8-31, Brown 3-23, Parker 1-3, Robbins 1-3, Knox 1-(-3).
Lost River — Stradley 7-19-2 86.
Cascade Christian — Scottow 5-17-1 49, Knox 0-1-1 0.
Lost River — Burch 4-52, O'Grady 1-24, Nowak 1-5, Ramos 1-5.
Cascade Christian — Brite 2-39, Girardot 1-9, Williams 1-1, Joffer 1-0.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry