BEND — Cascade Christian football players gathered in a circle after winning the Class 3A state championship and, one by one, stood up to give praise to teammates.
After demolishing Nyssa, 41-6, at Summit High on Saturday, the Challengers certainly earned themselves a pat on the back.
Cascade Christian did not disappoint in its second straight appearance in the title game, racing out to a 20-0 halftime lead, producing 442 total yards of offense, cashing in on all four of its red zone opportunities and stifling the Bulldogs on defense.
The memories of last year's finals loss to Dayton fueled the Challengers (12-2), who claimed the program's second state crown (Cascade Christian secured the 2A title in 2006).
Even before that fateful night last fall, senior wide receiver Cody Parker dreamed of what it might feel like to outlast everyone.
"I can't even explain it," said Cody Parker, whose monster night included three touchdowns, 104 rushing yards and 79 receiving yards. "Since seventh grade this senior group has been talking about winning a state championship. For it to happen right now, it's indescribable. ... It doesn't just start last week. It started every single day since last time we lost the state championship. We got up at 6 o'clock in the morning and worked out. But this last week we did a lot of preparation, watched a lot of film. We practiced at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving day."
Serving Cody Parker and a host of others on a cold central Oregon day was senior quarterback Seth Knox, who finished 21-for-27 for 222 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His performance capped a mind-boggling playoff run.
"Another great game (by Knox)," Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman said. "He took off the second half of the season and he never turned the ball over in the playoffs. He has taken advantage of the opportunity and run with it."
The Challengers' new high-speed spread offense took a back seat early on. Cascade Christian's first two scoring drives were grinding (the first was 14 plays, 93 yards and the second 12 plays, 96 yards), but both ended with aerial fireworks.
David Sellers hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Knox with 4:15 left in the first quarter to put the Challengers ahead, 6-0. The long drive was sustained after Cody Parker broke off a 12-yard run on fourth-and-4 to the Bulldog 10. Just three of the 14 plays in the possession were passes.
Cascade Christian dialed up another pounding combination of run and pass on its second scoring drive, which culminated with a 16-yard scoring strike from Knox to a twisting and turning Cody Parker with 2:59 left in the second quarter.
Knox and his squad identified a weakness in Nyssa's defense and took advantage, he said.
"It was just like five in the box so they were kinda just letting us run because they knew we were a pass team, so our run game was on fire," Knox said. "Once they over-rode the box I was able to throw outside. So everything was working."
The Challengers took a 20-0 edge lickety-split: a four-play, 68-yard drive that lasted all of 43 seconds ended with Cooper Clark grabbing a 19-yard TD pass from Knox 24 seconds before halftime.
Cody Parker's 35-yard scoring reception from Knox with 4:51 to go in the third quarter provided Cascade Christian a 27-0 advantage. In a brief moment of suspense, the signal caller stayed on the ground for several minutes as trainers examined him. Knox missed the next Challenger possession with cramping in his calves and hamstrings before re-entering.
"Once I stepped back on the field I could hear the fans cheering and I knew I had a chance to lead the team down the field and to victory," Knox said.
Cody Parker turned in his third score when he ran one in from 3 yards out with 3:45 left in the fourth. As if any extra frosting was needed on an already sweet cupcake for Cascade Christian, Challenger Matt Miller recovered a fumble in the end zone on the ensuing kickoff and scored another touchdown.
The Cascade Christian defense was equally locked in, leaving Nyssa 0-for-3 in the red zone and collecting eight sacks. One of its biggest moments came in the second quarter when Knox broke up a pass from Nyssa quarterback Austin Wagstaff to John Bates on fourth-and-goal that could have tied the game. Another snapshot of the strong effort was a Sellers sack of Wagstaff on fourth-and-8 at the Challenger 18 later in the game.
Dante Olson was a force with 16 tackles. Dalton Palmer had eight tackles, Clark six tackles, Sellers five with two sacks and TJ Alvarez four with two sacks.
Cody Parker, his team's most valuable player, had 11 carries and Tanner Parker added 15 attempts for 86 yards for the Challengers, who finished with 220 rushing yards to complement Knox's aerial assault.
Sellers made seven catches for 84 yards, Cody Parker had six receptions and Clark six grabs for 52 yards.
"Our offensive line played a game," Gettman said. "They got off the ball and won the game up front and allowed Seth to pick it apart and go from there."
Wagstaff completed 20 of his 36 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown and Nyssa receiver Dalton Conant had seven grabs for 116 yards.
As the final seconds rolled off the clock, Gettman received a bath of ice water.
It was a cold pat on the back for a man who entered Saturday's contest with a cool heart.
"Going in, I guess there was a peace about it because the kids have worked so hard, put their time in, and when you do that you can take comfort in the fact that they are prepared," he said. "And they are a special group of kids."
Cascade Christian 41, Nyssa 6
At Summit High, Bend
Nysssa 0 0 0 6 —6
Cascade Christian 6 14 7 14 —41
CC — Sellers 16 pass from Knox (pass failed)
CC — C. Parker 16 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
CC — Clark 19 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
CC — C. Parker 35 pass from Knox (C. Parker kick)
— Conant 29 pass from Wagstaff (pass failed)
CC — C. Parker 3 run (C. Parker kick)
CC — Matt Miller fumble recovery in end zone (C. Parker kick)
First Downs 21 24
Rushes-Yards 31-98 37-220
Passing Yards 295 222
Comp-Att-Int 20-36-0 21-29-0
Total Yards 393 442
Punts 4-26.2 4-35.2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-59 10-119
Nyssa — Castro 8-38, Buchholz 5-32, Wagstaff 16-27, Simpson 1-2, Lucero 1-(1).
Cascade Christian — C. Parker 11-104, T. Parker 15-86, Knox 5-20, Brown 4-14, Team 2-(-4).
Nyssa — Wagstaff 20-36-0 295.
Cascade Christian — Seth Knox 21-27-0 222, Alec Furst 0-2-0 0.
Nyssa — Conant 7-116, Buchholz 4-49, Bates 3-81, Clark 2-20, Castellanoz 2-19, Castro 2-10.
Cascade Christian — Sellers 7-84, C. Parker 6-79, Clark 6-52, Olson 1-7, T. Parker 1-0.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/danjonesmt or www.twitter.com/dljcards