November 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By C.J. Gish

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande could do little wrong in its season football finale against McLoughlin.

The Tigers routed the visiting Pioneers 36-7 in Greater Oregon League play behind a four-touchdown night from senior wide receiver Aaron Thomas.

Thomas caught three passes all for touchdowns and ran a punt back for a 79-yard score early in the third quarter.

I was a little nervous since this was the last game (of the season), Thomas said. But I had some good solid blocks.

Two of Thomass catches were corner routes, ending with a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter and an 8-yarder in the second.

Thomass 41-yard catch in the third came on a second-and-12 play when Kyle Bomberger threw a short pass. Thomas outraced the McLoughlin defenders and dove into the end zone.

Thomas wasnt the only senior to end his La Grande career with a bang.

Tailback Casey Fenwick used his power and speed to bully his way for 157 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Hes one of the premier players in the league, and if we block for him hell make plays, La Grande coach Randy Waite said.

Fenwick, who rushed for 110 yards in the second half, exploded for a 63-yard run late in the third quarter, setting up a Bomberger to senior wide receiver Adam Kleck 20-yard touchdown pass on a corner route on fourth-and-12.

While the offense was clicking on nearly all cylinders, the defense was creating havoc.

James Charlo, who spent most of his time at quarterback but was used at tailback a few series for the Pioneers, was pressured relentlessly throughout the game. He led McLoughlin with 50 yards on 23 carries.

Charlo was taken down for losses seven times, including a 9-yard sack by unblocked sophomore Denny OReilly that sent Charlo to the sideline with a hurt right shin late in the third quarter.

It was a good way to let the seniors go out with a win, Waite said. We threw the ball, caught the ball and ran the ball well.

Thomass second touchdown was set up when Bomberger intercepted Charlo and returned it 13 yards to the McLoughlin 29. Following four straight runs from Fenwick, including an 18-yarder on second-and-21, Bomberger found Thomas with 33 seconds left for a 14-0 La Grande halftime lead.

The score could have been bigger, but the Tigers squandered an opportunity at the start of the second quarter when junior Christopher Mundt blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the McLoughlin 22.

After getting to the Pioneer 8, a Thomas recovered a fumble on a reverse for a 10-yard loss followed by a Kleck fumble recovered by McLoughlins Nic Ely.

The game was played in dedication of teammate T.J. Frye, a junior whose dad is battling cancer, Waite said.

McLoughlins only score came early in the fourth quarter when Charlo found Trent Hetterley over the middle. Hetterley took the pass and dashed 66 yards for the score.

McLoughlin 0 0 0 7 7

La Grande 6 8 22 0 36

LG Aaron Thomas 16 pass from Kyle Bomberger (kick failed), 3:33

LG Thomas 8 pass from Bomberger (Casey Fenwick run), :33

LG Thomas 79 punt return (Fenwick run), 9:32

LG Adam Kleck 20 pass from Bomberger (Jacob Simonis kick), 1:14

LG Thomas 41 pass from Bomberger (Simonis kick), :00

M Trent Hetterley 66 pass from James Charlo (Charlo kick), 10:18

Individual statistics

RUSHING McLoughlin, Charlo 23-50, Gillette 10-15, Nelson 1-8, B.Rice 3-4, Ely 1-(minus 2). La Grande, Fenwick 20-157, Simonis 4-10, Mundt 4-4, Carson 1-3, Bomberger 1-2, Wagner 2-(minus 1), Thomas 1-(minus 10).

PASSING McLoughlin, Charlo 4-15-1-120, Knight 0-2-0-0. La Grande, Bomberger 9-16-0-141, Wagner 1-3-1-7.

RECEIVING McLoughlin, Hetterley 4-120. La Grande, Kleck 7-83, Thomas 3-65.