It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
EAGLE POINT — It all started slowly for Eagle Point on a rare Thursday night football game but once the Eagles gained momentum there was no looking back in a 45-18 rout of Willamette at Eagle Stadium.
On a night when the Eagles celebrated senior night, homecoming and the finale of a season-long fundraising raffle by the Eagle Point Booster Club, there were plenty of subplots to the script. But EP didn't fade under the spotlight in gaining a key Midwestern League triumph.
Senior running backs Jakob Combs and Caleb Ash combined for five touchdowns and 333 yards of offense for Eagle Point (4-3, 2-3 MWL), while junior quarterback Jorge Quintero passed for three scores and ran for another.
"It feels awesome to come out here and just play our hearts out and get a win like this," said Ash. "We know it was a team effort, we all did it together, and I'm just really happy with the way we played today."
Combs finished with 23 carries for 153 yards and one TD and caught one pass for 15 yards and another score. Ash built on his teammate's effort with 18 carries for 116 yards and two TDs and caught two passes for 49 yards and one score.
"I've got to give it up to the line, it was a big team effort," said Combs. "The line got their blocks early and the receivers got their blocks, too, and it just felt great out there all night."
Overall, the Eagles amassed 371 yards on the ground — 528 total — to easily cruise past Willamette (1-6, 0-5).
"We pretty much did what we thought we could do coming out tonight," said Eagles head coach Jacob Schauffler, "and it helps when you've got an offense that dominates the time of possession and we're able to run the ball effectively."
"They've got some good athletes," he added of the Wolverines, "they're much, much better than their record shows. They've just kinda hurt themselves a little bit."
The Eagles dominated possession in a first quarter that saw the ball almost entirely on the Wolverines' side of the field but couldn't quite break through until Combs burst 14 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 1:19 to go in the quarter.
Eagle Point built a second scoring drive from its own 20 on the legs of Combs, who carried the ball on five of EP's first six plays to get the ball to the Willamette 44-yard line. Combs added another 10-yard gain after getting a breather and then played a great decoy on a faked handoff by Quintero that drew the entire defense to one side and let the junior QB scoot through the opposite side untouched for a 19-yard score.
"They're keying on him at that point when you've got a kid running like he was able to run tonight," Schauffler said of Combs. "We've got some things that we definitely need to clean up but anytime you can run the ball like we have been able to run it this year you're going to be effective."
Willamette mounted a quick counterattack for its first touchdown — a 31-yard TD reception by Trevor White from Kosey Mitchell — but the Eagles needed only three plays to respond for a 20-6 advantage. After taking over at their own 40, the Eagles got runs of 20 and 1 yards from Ash before Quintero sent a soaring fade toward Carlos Flores, who leaped over his defender for the catch and spun into the end zone for a 39-yard score.
After Willamette's starting QB Mitchell was injured and left the game early in the third quarter, backup QB Tanner Cantwell found White for an 18-yard strike that pulled the Wolverines to within 20-12.
That was as close as the Eagles would let the game get, however, as they went on a run of 25 straight points that was highlighted by three touchdowns by Ash and a scrambling effort by Quintero for a 15-yard TD pass to Combs. Ash's first TD came on a screen from Quintero where he broke away from a crowd for a 41-yard score, getting a key seal block from Combs. His others were on runs of 4 and 32 yards, the latter set up by a Flores block downfield.
"That third-down play where he took that screen was incredible," said Schauffler. "We had some great blocks but it was a great individual effort on the catch and run. Caleb's probably our most dynamic player as far as being able to make a play from anywhere on the field. He's our game-breaker."
Quintero was solid behind center all night, handling the diverse option attack with deft sleight of hand and then working the ball to the perimeter when the opportunity was there. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 126 yards and three TDs and carried eight times for 57 yards and one score.
"He's a smart quarterback and he's a really clutch decision-maker for us," Ash said of Quintero. "He knows how to make a decision right away, and that really helps us a lot."
His effective passing also bodes well for the Eagles' plans down the road.
"We've talked all year about being efficient when we throw the ball," said Schauffler. "We don't have to throw the ball a lot, and if we're efficient like we were tonight then teams are going to have to respect that and they've got to take guys out of the box."
Eagle Point 45, Willamette 18
At Eagle Stadium
Willamette 0 6 6 6 —18
Eagle Point 7 13 13 12 —45
EP — Combs 14 run (Atteberry kick)
EP — Quintero 19 run (kick failed)
W — White 31 pass from Mitchell (kick blocked)
EP — Flores 39 pass from Quintero (Atteberry kick)
W — White 18 pass from Cantwell (kick failed)
EP — Ash 41 pass from Quintero (Atteberry kick)
EP — Ash 4 run (kick failed)
EP — Combs 15 pass from Quintero (kick failed)
EP — Ash 32 run (kick failed)
W — Cantwell 5 run (kick blocked)
First Downs 12 23
Rushes-Yards 25-149 62-371
Passing Yards 155 157
Comp-Att-Int 7-20-0 11-23-1
Total Yards 304 528
Punts 6-32 3-34
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 5-45 6-55
Willamette — York 4-11, Mitchell 4-50, Aguirre 11-54, Cantwell 3-1, Britt 3-33.
Eagle Point — Combs 23-153, Ash 18-116, Quintero 8-57, Brammer 5-29, Watson 2-14, Callahan 1-3, Flores 2-1, Arena 3-(-2).
Willamette — Mitchell 3-13-0 68, Cantwell 4-7-0 87.
Eagle Point — Quintero 9-18-0 126, Brammer 2-5-1 31.
Willamette — Ferguson 1-22, Crownover 2-50, White 3-78, York 1-5.
Eagle Point — Flores 4-71, Zerger 4-22, Ash 2-49, Combs 1-15.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry