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Challengers pummel Loggers in playoff opener

The Class 3A state-playoff march began on Saturday for the Cascade Christian football team. And the third-ranked Challengers acted every bit the part of a state-champion candidate.

Cascade Christian used a rugged rushing attack and a spotless defensive performance to manhandle Vernonia, 63-0, in a first-round game at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Cascade Christian, 8-2 overall and the Sunset League runner-up, scored on every offensive possession and led 49-0 at halftime against the No. 3 seed from the Lewis & Clark Conference. A running clock was implemented in the second half due to the lopsided score.

Nine players carried the ball for a Cascade Christian offense that piled up 519 yards of offense, with 420 of those coming on the ground.

"Everybody played well for us today," said sophomore quarterback Colton Cochran, who passed for 99 yards and two touchdowns, completing 3 of 5. "(The passing game) picked up because our running game was so effective."

Senior Ben Heidegger led all rushers with 86 yards on only seven carries, Alex Cummings added 63 yards on three totes and Daniel Kinney, the team's leading rusher during the regular season, scampered for 54 yards on five attempts. None of the three played on offense in the second half.

"We had plenty of confidence coming into this game," said 6-foot-2, 295-pound junior lineman James Humphries. "We didn't want to be cocky or anything, we just have a veteran line that has been here before. We had a feeling we could beat this team."

Cascade Christian advances to a second-round game at Vale, a 51-0 winner over Amity on Saturday, next weekend. The Eastern Oregon League champion Vikings defeated Cascade Christian 20-14 two years ago in a first-round 2A playoff contest.

"Hopefully we'll do well," said Humphries. "We are pretty excited about getting the chance to play them.

"But we didn't want to overlook this game."

That they didn't do as the Challengers marched 45 yards on five plays on the game's opening drive for a touchdown. Heidegger capped off the possession with a 17-yard TD run to give Cascade Christian a 6-0 lead at the 9:25 mark of the first quarter.

Vernonia (7-4), which featured a no-huddle, shotgun attack, was no match against a Cascade Christian defense that has now posted four straight shutouts.

That was apparent from the Loggers' opening drive.

Junior linebacker Daniel Kinney laid out Caleb Rice after a short pass reception on Vernonia's first play and, after a Rice carry for no gain, Kinney was there again with a big hit to break up a third-down pass play.

The Loggers struggled to get much of anything against the Challengers' stingy defense, gaining only one first down and losing 13 yards in the second half.

"We were able to do some things offensively in the first half," said Cascade Christian offensive and defensive coordinator Brandon Boice. "But really, I was pleased with our defensive effort and the way we flew around.

"(Vernonia) threw that no-huddle (offense) wrinkle at us, but the defense adjusted."

Offensively, Cascade Christian pounded its way to 304 yards rushing in the first half. Cochran also got in on the act with a pair of TD passes to Ben Joffer, covering 31 and 56 yards.

The latter scoring strike came midway through the second period with the Challengers already ahead 28-0.

On the play, Cochran faked the handoff, then lofted the ball 35 yards in the air, and a wide-open Joffer hauled it in in stride and scooted the remaining 21 yards untouched.

The touchdown passes were the ninth and 10th of the season for Cochran against no interceptions.

"The passing game is coming along," said the 6-2, 171-pound quarterback. "It's important because other teams have to respect the pass, and that opens it up more for our running game."

Kinney and Cameron Tooker each scored two touchdowns, while Joffer hauled in all three Cochran completions for 99 yards.

The sophomore receiver, however, left the game with a minor injury. His status is unknown for next week's contest.

The Challengers were also without sophomore linebacker Brandon Grissom, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago in the final regular season game.

"We've kind of been bitten by the injury bug here of late," said Boice. "I think Joffer's injury might be minor, but we'll have to see. We hope Grissom can play (next week).

"Those two guys, that's a lot of team speed right there."

Cascade Christian will need to hit on all cylinders against sixth-ranked Vale.

The Eastern Oregon school has won 10 state titles and handed the Challengers their only defeat of the 2005 season.

"We've been looking forward to playing them for a while," said Boice. "We weren't looking ahead, but we knew after the Gold Beach game (a 27-22 loss) it was a possibility we could see them down the road.

"That (2005) loss has stuck in our minds."

Vernonia 0 0 0 0 —0

Cascade Christian 20 29 7 7 —63

CC — Heidegger 17 run (run failed)

CC — Tooker 9 run (Kinney run)

CC — Joffer 31 pass from Cochran (pass failed)

CC — Kinney 22 run (Stickler run)

CC — Joffer 56 pass from Cochran (Kinney kick)

CC — Kinney 6 run (Kinney kick)

CC — Cochran 4 run (Kinney kick)

CC — Tooker 3 run (Kinney kick)

CC — Wipf 7 run (Kinney kick)

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail kgoff@mailtribune.com

#30 Ben Heidegger drags Vernonia defender into the end zone