September 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

JOHN DAY La Grande survived its first Greater Oregon League football test by 1 yard Friday night.

Jarred Lemcke was tackled at the 1-yard line and time ran out on Grant Union, which fell to the Tigers at home, 16-13.

We definitely made it exciting for the fans, La Grande coach Randy Waite said. It was a good tackle (on Lemcke). Everyone converged on him.

We knew Grant Union was going to be good. We were happy to get out with a win.

The contest featured a tight battle that started with Grant Union marching 51 yards on its first possession, capped by Trevor Simmons running 15 yards for a touchdown.

The Prospectors 7-0 lead held through the first half.

The second half was all La Grande (2-1 overall, 1-0 league), starting when Jon Henderson punted the ball 60 yards to Grant Unions 1-yard line. On the next play, a fumble was recovered by Lemcke, who was tackled for a safety.

Later in the third quarter, La Grandes Aaron Thomas caught a 27-yard Kyle Bomberger touchdown pass. Tyson Stebbins added two points off a pass from Bomberger as La Grande surged ahead 10-7.

Lemcke, though, answered for Grant Union when he ran 63 yards for a touchdown and a 13-10 Prospector lead on the next drive.

Thomas added his second scoring reception of the night when Bomberger found him for a 12-yard pass in the fourth quarter.

Bomberger went on to complete 13 of 32 passes for 199 yards.

We did a good job protecting (Bomberger), now we just have to find a way to run the ball, Waite said. Im not pleased with that.

La Grande managed only 62 yards on 29 carries, led by Casey Fenwicks 54 yards rushing. Fenwick also led the Tigers with five catches for 72 yards.

La Grande travels to Boardman Friday for a Greater Oregon League game against Riverside.

Cove loses close one

CRANE Cove came within a dropped pass late in the game of beating Crane Friday.

Trailing 12-8, the Leopards marched down the field only to have a dropped touchdown pass lead to a loss in their Old Oregon League opener.

We just blew it, Cove coach Rich Thew said.

Cove went ahead 8-6 in the fourth quarter when Jeffrey Manley scored from 9 yards out, followed by Manleys two-point run.

Defense ruled the first half as neither team scored. Both teams had trouble moving the ball, Thew said. We had nothing longer than a 10-yard run and Crane was the same.

Crane got on the board first with a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Ryan Joyce turned in the longest offensive play of the day, going 69 yards for the deciding score.

He broke lose a little bit and we had two guys try to tackle him and knock each other off, Thew said.

Euell Macke had another solid effort for Cove (0-4 overall, 0-1 league), rushing for 98 yards.

Cove travels Friday to Adrian.