By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
HILLSBORO In the first half, it was the weather that was wild and woolly. In the second half, it was the football action.
And in the end, the No. 4-ranked St. Paul Buckaroos beat No. 1-ranked Powder Valley in the 1A State football semifinals Saturday perhaps because they handled the extreme elements a little better than the Badgers.
St. Paul scored twice late in the game to win going away 56-34.
However, with six minutes left, Powder Valley was down only six points after both teams lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine through most of the second half.
The loss left the Badgers one game shy of the state championship game for the second straight year. Last year, St. Paul knocked Powder Valley out of the semifinals 72-34.
Badgers quarterback Todd Baxter did everything he could in a courageous effort to bring Powder Valley back from a huge hole. Pushing himself to the point of exhaustion, he had 510 combined yards of offense 191 passing and 319 rushing.
"He basically carried us running the ball," said coach Alan Stanfield. Stanfield thought the game came down to a bad second quarter.
During that period, the Badgers had to go into the teeth of a 30- to 40-mph wind while battling a hard rain and a wind chill factor between 10 and 20 degrees. The Buckaroos, who had the wind at their backs, outscored Powder Valley 20-0 in the second quarter.
"If we wouldn't have had that second quarter into the wind, we could've had a chance," Stanfield said. "They (St. Paul) took advantage of the wind."
Baxter, a junior, will be back next year to tear up the Old Oregon League again. In fact, the Badgers are returning most of their skill players next season. Powder Valley will have to replenish its offensive and defensive lines as the Badgers graduate a core group of Kylee Simonis, Danny Kerns, Brad Feik and Rusty Fincher. Running back and linebacker David Dozhier is also graduating.
With the wind at their backs in the first quarter, the Badgers scored on their first drive. They converted a fourth-and-10 on a Baxter run aided by a bone-crushing block from Deven Thompson. Baxter later scored on a short plunge from the 3 to make it 6-0.
Then in the second quarter, the heavens opened up, and a heavy rain was added to the wind, which if anything became more severe.
After St. Paul quarterback Damian Wylie scored on a 19-yard run to tie the score at 6-6, Powder Valley couldn't drive the ball at all into the wind. A Baxter pass was turned into a flailing duck by the gale, and St. Paul intercepted, scoring moments later on a 35-yard pass from Wylie to Ismael Ramirez.
With the Badgers continuing to struggle on offense against Typhoon Hillsboro, St. Paul scored again on a 30-yard pass for a 20-6 halftime lead.
During the half, the rain stopped and the sun came out. That opened the way for an amazing 18 minutes of football, as these two gridiron powers wailed away at one another like a pair of heavyweight fighters.
Less than a minute into the second half Powder Valley's Baxter hit Kaycee Shroyer with a 52-yard scoring pass then St. Paul marched down the field to score on a 10-yard run with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
The Badgers responded with a drive that saw Baxter hit Thompson with a 37-yard pass, then run for 19 yards, 17 yards and finally 7 yards for the touchdown to trail 26-20. St. Paul answered with a quick 30-yard touchdown pass.
After intercepting a pass in the end zone, St. Paul drove the length of the field to score on a 5-yard run for a 40-20 lead.
On the next offensive play, Baxter sprinted around right end for an 80-yard scoring run, and the Badgers trialed 40-26.
Then, a fired-up Powder Valley defense held and got the ball back. Baxter fired a 24-yard scoring pass to Thompson, and Baxter scored on a two-pointer to trail by 40-34 with 6:48 left in the game.
Powder Valley players could sense that this game, which seemed out of reach just moments earlier, was theirs for the taking. The players hollered and whooped it up along the sidelines, as Baxter, who could barely stand up at this point because of the pounding he was taking, simply took a knee so he could catch his breath.
Unfortunately, St. Paul quickly grabbed the momentum right back. Stanfield had said going into this game that a key was containing Buckaroos' star running back Manuel Ramos, who ran for 300 yards in last year's semifinal against the Badgers.
Powder Valley did a great job of keeping Ramos bottled up for almost the whole game, but he finally broke through with 6:20 left in the fourth for a 70-yard touchdown run. Ramos finished with 201 yards on 19 carries.
The Buckaroos' Ramirez caught five passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
The Badgers' Thompson caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Shroyer had two catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Stanfield said the players had nothing to be ashamed of. They still had a great year, ending the season 10-1. He said if it hadn't been for some bad luck in bad weather, they might have moved on to the title game.
"They showed they deserved to be in the top echelon," said Stanfield.
In the other semifinal, defending champion Dufur was knocked off by Perrydale 62-34. Perrydale and St. Paul will play for the 1A state championship Saturday.
Powder Valley 6 0 14 14 34
St. Paul 0 20 14 22 56
PV Todd Baxter 3 run (PAT failed)
StP Damian Wylie 19 run (PAT failed)
StP Ismael Ramirez 35 pass from Wylie (PAT failed)
StP Ryan Jeffers 30 pass from Wylie 10 run (Wylie run)
PV Baxter 7 run (PAT failed)
StP Ramirez 40 pass from Wylie (Jeffers pass from Wylie)
StP Wylie 5 run (PAT failed)
PV Baxter 80 run (PAT failed)
PV Deven Thompson 24 pass from Baxter (Baxter run)
StP Manuel Ramos 70 run (Ramos run)
StP Ramirez 13 pass from Wylie (Ramos run)
RUSHING Powder Valley, Baxter 20-319, Thompson 7-26, Justin Deal 1-15, David Dozhier 4-4, Cody Taylor 2-(minus 1). St. Paul, Ramos 19-201, Wylie 17-68, Jeffers 10-19, Ramirez 1-5.
PASSING Powder Valley, Baxter 13-27-3-191. St. Paul, Wylie 9-17-0-199.
RECEIVING Powder Valley, Thompson 6-87, Shroyer 2-57, Dozhier 2-7, Weeks 1-30, Rusty Fincher 1-10, Perkins 1-0. St. Paul, Ramirez 5-142, Jeffers 2-29, Ramos 1-13, Levi Shull 1-15.