CENTRAL POINT — Brandon Williams did plenty to put Cascade Christian in a position for a comfortable Class 3A football state quarterfinal victory Saturday.

CENTRAL POINT — Brandon Williams did plenty to put Cascade Christian in a position for a comfortable Class 3A football state quarterfinal victory Saturday.

But two Williams fumbles late in the fourth quarter suddenly changed the complexion of the game.

Then Williams redeemed himself with a key first-down run as the Challengers held off Horizon Christian of Tualatin 21-18 at Dutch Meyer Field.

The victory gives Cascade Christian (10-2) another shot at Santiam Christian next Saturday in the state semifinals. Santiam Christian, which defeated the Challengers 50-7 earlier in the season, advanced with a 18-14 win over Nyssa. This is the fourth straight year Cascade Christian has reached the semifinals.

Williams had already scored two touchdowns and carried the ball for more than 150 yards before the Challengers (10-2) stopped the Hawks on downs with 4:04 remaining in the game and leading 21-3.

But on the Challengers' first play from their 31-yard line, Williams uncharacteristically coughed up the ball when hit in the backfield and Horizon Christian (8-3) recovered at the 27. One play later, quarterback Wyatt Houston connected with Zach Selland for a touchdown pass and the Hawks cut their deficit to 21-10.

Levi Girardot handled the Hawks' ensuing squib kickoff at the Challengers' 43-yard line. But almost like a replay of Williams' previous carry, the dynamic running back was again jarred loose of the ball in the backfield and defensive lineman David Nosack recovered at the 40-yard line.

"I got the ball and as soon as I looked up, I got mauled," explained Williams.

Then on a third-and-22 from their own 48, Houston found Selland wide open down the middle for another touchdown. The Hawks converted the two-point conversion on a Houston pass to Jordan Pearson and suddenly the score was 21-18 with 2:52 to go.

Girardot again corralled a high-bouncing short kick at the Challengers' 40. This time Williams broke off a crucial 18-yard run on a sweep around left end for a first down on a second-and-14 play. Three snaps later, quarterback Daniel Scottow secured the victory when he faked to Williams up the middle and circled around right end for 13 yards.

"I got to the line and looked where the first down was," said Williams about his big first-down run, "and I knew I had to get it."

Williams' first touchdown came on a 34-yard off-tackle run in the first quarter when he broke out of the grasp of Cameron Egger at the 20 and glided into the end zone. The junior then exploded up the middle from the Hawks' 19 and powered through two defensive players at the 10 for a touchdown with 8:18 left in the second period to give the Challengers a 14-3 lead.

"It was amazing how the adrenalin kept me going," said Williams, who played with a banged up knee.

Despite being slowed with the injury, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Williams finished with 177 yards on 22 carries and caught all three Cascade Christian completions for another 53 yards.

"Brandon Williams makes kids miss," Cascade Christian coach Jon Gettman said. "He may be only 150 pounds but he is strong. He runs angry."

On a long drive that produced what proved to be the winning touchdown, Williams broke off a 26-yard run for a first down when the Challengers were backed up to their 9 and faced a second-and-26.

Girardot completed the 11-play, 75-yard march with an 8-yard burst up the middle with 8:39 left in the fourth quarter.

"I ran as hard as I could," said Girardot, who got across the goal line by stretching the ball over his head. "I knew I had to get the touchdown."

Girardot, a senior transfer from Rogue River, came alive on the drive with runs of 7 and 20 yards prior to his touchdown.

"(Girardot) is really coming on the past three weeks," said Gettman. "He's playing more and more consistently. This was the drive of the game for us. They had the momentum and we took it away from them. "

Girardot, who played quarterback for Rogue River, finished with 72 yards on 13 rushes.

"It was an adjustment playing a different position," said Girardot. "I'm starting to see the holes and learning the right moves."

"I'm just starting to feel comfortable," added Girardot, who never won a league game at Rogue River. "It's exciting being in the playoffs. It's all new emotions."

Houston, a 6-4, 220-pound junior, was 18-of-23 passing for 243 yards and two interceptions. Selland was the Hawks' leading receiver with nine catches for 183 yards.

"We showed what we could do at the end and had a shot," said Houston. "We were just one play away."

The Challenger defense was led by senior defensive backs Dillon and Dominick Combs, who each had an interception. Dillon Combs also had a team-high five tackles and two pass breakups.

"We're becoming a good defensive unit," said Gettman. "Our line put pressure on (Houston) consistently and our secondary took away his first read. They got beat a few times but they were aggressive.

"We just flat-out put the ball on the ground a couple of times," lamented Gettman. "We made a good game a close game."

Horizon Christian 3 0 0 15 — 18

Cascade Christian 7 7 0 7 — 21

HC — FG Grimmett 43

CC — B. Williams 34 run (Parker kick)

CC — B. Williams 19 run (Parker kick)

CC — Girardot 8 run (Parker kick)

HC — Selland 28 pass from Houston (Grimmett kick)

HC — Selland 52 pass from Houston (Pearson pass from Houston)

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or by email at fsilow@mailtribune.com