The Ontario Tigers football team had its way when it took down the La Grande Tigers three weeks ago in Ontario.
Thursday night’s rematch at Community Stadium was a complete role reversal as La Grande administered a beatdown to move into a tie for first place in the Greater Oregon League.
La Grande’s Nathan Reed rushed for 279 yards and two touchdowns, Parker Robinson accounted for five scores, and La Grande pulled away after a slow start to pummel Ontario, 49-12.
“I knew we were going to come out and perform better than the last time we played them,” La Grande Head Coach Rich McIlmoil said. “We’re improving every week. The kids have been working hard.”
The win moves the Tigers into a tie with Ontario atop the GOL, but La Grande now owns the tiebreaker should the teams end with the same record by virtue of the point spread. Ontario’s earlier win was by a 35-14 margin.
The start was ominous for La Grande, which fell behind 6-0 barely five minutes into the game on a 34-yard touchdown catch by Seth Forsyth.
But La Grande got rolling on offense and stepped up on defense.
“That really woke us up,” lineman Gabe Shukle said. “It got us really pumped up, and that’s when we started bringing it.”
La Grande went off in the second quarter, taking a 7-6 lead on Blaine Shaw’s five-yard touchdown catch — his first of three on the night — at the 10:07 mark of the second quarter. A 26-yard diving grab by Shaw about three minutes later made it 14-6. Reed and Robinson also found paydirt in the second quarter — Reed from 10 yards and Robinson from 31 yards — to push the lead to 28-6 by halftime.
Shaw attributed a lot of the success to the play of the offensive line, and said that in turn helped the whole offense.
“They came together this week,” he said of the line. “Nathan ran the ball downhill hard, and they gave Parker time to throw it to his receivers.”
Meanwhile, La Grande’s defense, which was carved up for 414 yards — including 321 yards rushing in the teams’ first meeting — dominated up front. The defensive line gave Ontario nowhere to run and was constantly in the backfield to force a loss or holding Ontario to no gain. The visiting Tigers had just 96 yards of offense in the first half, and 247 for the contest.
“Our defensive coordinator, coach (Matt) Wolcott, has done a great job and he really worked on us with reading the guards, the down blocks and the pulls,” Reed said. “I think we read that well and we shut down the run game.”
The second half belonged to Reed. The junior running back accounted for 192 of his yards after halftime, running over, around and through a beleaguered Ontario defense. His 52-yard run helped key La Grande’s lone touchdown of the third quarter — a 13-yard catch by Zach Wiggins that he tipped to himself in the end zone — for a 35-12 lead. He added a 39-yard scoring run in the fourth to push the margin to 30 points, and finished the second half with seven rushes of at least 10 yards.
Reed was also quick to credit the offensive line for the big game.
“They did great. I couldn’t ask for anything better out of them,” he said. “I have to give them all the credit.”
The offensive outburst was easily La Grande’s best of the season. The Tigers finished with 453 yards of offense, which was 116 more than their next closest total of 337 against Baker, and 320 more than what they gained against Ontario the first time — 133 yards. La Grande rushed for 338 yards.
“Incredible,” Robinson said of the win. “We game planned all week and we did exactly what we practiced.”
Robinson was 8-for-13 for 115 yards with four TD passes and had 37 yards rushing. Shaw had 63 yards through the air to lead the receiving corps. Shaw also grabbed two interceptions on defense.
Kenji Teramura led Ontario with 120 yards passing and 57 yards rushing. Jose Flores, who rushed for 198 yards in the previous matchup, had just one yard rushing on four carries, and didn’t touch the ball in the second half. Forsyth led the Ontario receivers with five catches for 84 yards.
La Grande (4-2 overall, 3-1 GOL) hosts McLoughlin in its final regular season home game next Friday.