October 05, 2003 11:00 pm

By Ben Reynolds

For the Observer

BOARDMAN — For the first 12 minutes of Friday night's game, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

The La Grande High School football team was having its way with Riverside.

The Tigers led 20-0 and appeared to be cruising to another easy victory over a Pirate team that was coming off a winless Greater Oregon League season a year ago.

And then things changed in a hurry. The Riverside offense exploded with big play after big play, scoring 43 of the game's next 50 points and came back for a 58-43 win at Riverside High School.

"It is about time," Riverside senior wide receiver Josh Kegler said after the game. "What a way to do it; put yourself in a hole and come back like that."

The win marked the Pirates' first league win under fourth-year coach Dean Peck.

La Grande coach Shea Little was proud of the Tigers' execution, particularly on offense, and focus. He said the Tigers have some things to work on, including the secondary. He said Riverside got some big plays on special teams and some big pass plays that hurt La Grande.

"They did a good job after last week (A 42-7 loss to Middleton, Idaho). They were more focused and the intensity was there. It was probably our best game of the year," said Little. "The kids were selling out. They were giving everything they had."

La Grande stormed out to a 20-0 lead on TD runs by Cale Flesher, Alan Eugenio and Jesse Myer. Myer's TD came on a 30-yard run.

Cody McCrae also had a 36-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Mitch McKinney in the first half.

Kegler, one of the best sprinters in the state on the track, jump-started the Riverside offense late in the second quarter on a 65-yard touchdown reception.

Kegler and the Pirates didn't stop there. The wideout caught another 65-yard pass from Shawn Dirksen for a score and ran back a kickoff for 86 yards for another score.

La Grande, after scoring 27 points in the first half, was held in check for most of the second half.

Sean Crow scored the Tigers' first touchdown of the second half early in the fourth quarter on a 40-yard run with 9:07 left in the game to make the score 43-35.

But Riverside came right back with a 5-yard score by Dustin Swindler. The Pirates put the game away on their next possession on a 4-yard touchdown reception by J.R. Seewer to give Riverside a 58-35 lead.

La Grande added a TD in the final minute on a 69-yard pass from McKinney to McCrae.

"He went out and had a great game," Little said of McCrae.

"This is the biggest win I have had here in four years; it feels great," Peck said. "We came through finally."

The Tigers drop to 1-1 in Greater Oregon League play (1-4 overall). The Tigers will return to Community Stadium next Friday to host Baker, coach Shea Little's former team. Baker is coming off an 20-13 upset loss against Ontario.

"Hopefully, we'll get something to roll. We continue to improve every week," said Little.