At the start of the fourth quarter, Seth Knox and Cody Parker shared an embrace and some light-hearted chat on the sidelines as the Cascade Christian offense took the field.
Knox, the Challengers' senior starting quarterback, and the versatile Parker weren't needed anymore in the 56-7 Class 3A opening-round state playoff football victory over Pleasant Hill at U.S. Cellular Community Park Friday night.
The rout of the Billies — a team the Challengers beat in a much more competitive contest earlier this year — was a testament to how far the no-huddle spread offense Cascade Christian installed this season had improved.
Knox had just thrown for six touchdowns and run for two more and Parker was on the receiving end of two of those TD passes and accounted for 119 yards in offense before heading to the sidelines.
"I told (Knox) he's been stepping up and doing everything we need him to do," Parker said about the sideline exchange.
Parker also told Knox he wouldn't want to be playing with any other quarterback.
The third-ranked Challengers (9-2) will put their spread attack on display again in the quarterfinals against Rainier at U.S. Cellular next Friday. Rainier beat Horizon Christian, 42-6, on Friday.
Cascade Christian jumped on Pleasant Hill from the beginning. And with a 42-7 halftime lead, there was no suspense about the final outcome.
Pleasant Hill (5-6) received the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, PacWest Conference player of the year Charlie Ward fumbled the exchange with quarterback Landon Housel and middle linebacker Dalton Palmer recovered at the Billies' 33.
Just four plays later, Knox floated a tight spiral to Parker, who broke free on a post pattern for a 31-yard touchdown with less than 90 seconds gone.
Ward fumbled again on the first play of the next possession. The Billies retained the ball this time but couldn't pick up a first down. Then a Pleasant Hill punt backed the Challengers up to their 2-yard line.
In a show of bravado, Challenger coach Jon Gettman called a running play to Jake Brown on a fourth-and-one from their own 11, and the senior picked up two yards.
On the next play, Knox scrambled to his right and found David Sellers open at the 40. Sellers raced up the sideline, cut to the left at the Billies' 15 and scored on the 87-yard play with 7:08 left in the quarter.
"It was probably my youth — I don't know any better," said the 29-year-old Gettman about the unorthodox decision to not punt deep in his own territory. "We wanted to stay aggressive. The biggest thing is I trust our defense."
A sack by Sellers forced Pleasant Hill to punt again on its third possession.
This time the Challengers went to Parker, who gained 46 yards on seven running plays. And Knox finished the 11-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown toss to Tanner Parker to give the Challengers a 21-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the opening quarter.
"Right off the start, our running game worked," said Knox, "and from that I knew I could throw outside because they were overloading the box. I did what the coaches told me to do and I just had to execute."
It was much the same in the second quarter. Cody Parker caught his second touchdown of the game and Knox beat a Pleasant Hill pass rush for a 30-yard touchdown on a scramble.
Pleasant Hill put together its only scoring drive of the game to score with 57 seconds remaining before halftime. But Cascade Christian capitalized on an unsuccessful onside kick and tacked on another touchdown — a Knox 28-yard scoring pass to Cooper Clark — with just five seconds left.
While Knox was orchestrating the offensive bonanza, the Challenger defense bottled up the Pleasant Hill attack that had minus 3 yards in the opening quarter.
For the game, Pleasant Hill was limited to 39 yards rushing, 52 passing and three first downs. And Ward, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season and had seven touchdowns in the first half of one game, was held to 30 yards on 13 carries.
"(Ward) is a great running back," said junior linebacker Dante Olson, who led the Challengers with 11 tackles. "Our strategy was to get our reads down and just get bodies on him."
There was definitely an adjustment period from the Challengers' long-used double-wing ground-based offense to a more wide-open attack.
"We were terrible offensively our first game," said Gettman of a 21-0 loss to Santiam Christian. "It humbled us. We thought it would come together a lot easier."
The Challengers totaled 558 yards in offense against the Billies. Knox was 15 of 23 passing for 247 yards, and the ground game accounted for 276 yards.
"Our philosophy is still to run the ball," said Gettman. "We want to be physical up front and win the trenches. We have good athletes across the field and want to get them in one-on-one situations."
That worked to perfection in the Challengers' opening-round victory.
Pleasant Hill 0 7 0 0 — 7
Cascade Christian 21 21 14 0 — 56
CC — C. Parker 31 pass from Knox (Sellers pass from Joffer)
CC — Sellers 87 pass from Knox (pass failed)
CC — C. Parker 7 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
CC — Knox 30 run (C. Parker kick)
PH — Ritchie 35 pass from Housel (Ritchie kick)
CC — Clark 28 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
CC — Knox 1 run (C. Parker kick)
CC — Palmer 16 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org