NORTH POWDER — Powder Valley football coach Josh Cobb’s words from September are ringing true.
After an early-season 50-40 victory over St. Paul, ranked sixth in the state at the time, the coach knew a rematch with the Buckaroos was possible.
“We’ll meet St. Paul again. We’ll play them later in the season,” Cobb said after the win on Friday, Sept. 17.
The Powder Valley football team handled business in a 36-0 victory over Myrtle Point in the quarterfinals on Nov. 12, setting up a rematch with St. Paul in the 2021 OSAA Class 1A state semifinals. The Badgers’ dominant season continues with a championship matchup against top-seeded Adrian looking more and more likely.
While a showdown with the Antelopes seems inevitable, the Badgers are taking things one week at a time. First and foremost, Powder Valley will need to overcome a St. Paul team that the Badgers previously defeated in a slugfest early in the year.
“We can’t get to the next week without this week,” Cobb said. “That’s all we’re focused on and all we’ve been talking about.”
It’s the first time the Badgers have reached the 1A state semifinals since winning the school’s only football title in 2003. That year, a dominant Powder Valley squad toppled Mohawk, 58-12, before routing Powers a week later in the championship game, 52-22. All-time, the Badgers are 3-7 in the state semifinals.
Powder Valley’s explosive offense was consistent in last week’s win over Myrtle Point, revolving around senior quarterback Reece Dixon. The versatile quarterback got things started with a five-yard keeper to give the Badgers the first points of the game.
The Badgers slowly broke down the Bobcats’ defense and exploited mismatches to build a 22-0 lead by halftime. While Myrtle Point still had a glimmer of hope for a comeback in the final two quarters, Powder Valley put away any doubts with a strong showing in the second half.
Dixon utilized his legs again midway through the third quarter, rushing for a 63-yard run deep into Myrtle Point territory. The senior finished the drive himself with a seven-yard touchdown run to give Powder Valley a commanding 30-0 lead.
Thanks to a dominant defensive effort and a 22-yard touchdown run from senior Case Olson, the Badgers were able to ride off with a dominant victory in the quarterfinals.
The win is a confidence boost for Powder Valley, knocking off a Myrtle Point team that came into the season with a 9-2 record and ranked No. 7 in the state. For the Badgers’ defense, a shutout against a team averaging 44.6 points per game this year is a great sign moving forward.
The first time that Powder Valley and St. Paul met, the Badgers overcame an early deficit and ran its offense efficiently through Dixon and Kaden Kreiger. The duo connected on several deep balls and was able to go over the top on St. Paul’s secondary.
Dixon will likely be the focus of St. Paul’s defense after he scored five touchdowns against the Buckaroos in the first matchup.
The Badgers used a strong offensive effort to take a 30-24 lead at halftime and extend the advantage to upwardsof 26 points during the third quarter. Powder Valley was able to come away with the 10-point victory.
The Buckaroos come into this matchup averaging 59.7 points per game, winning their last eight games, including a 44-6 win over Crane in the quarterfinals. St. Paul’s only blemish during a 10-1 season was the loss in North Powder.
“Their offense is very good,” Cobb said. “They can run the ball down the field just like we can. It’s going to be a battle of wills.”
The matchup between St. Paul and Powder Valley is slated for 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 at Caldera High School in Bend. It’ll be the third time the Badgers and Buckaroos have met in the state playoffs. And although the Badgers had the upper hand in the Sept. 17 matchup, St. Paul has won all three times the teams have played in the postseason. The Buckaroos knocked off Powder Valley in the semifinals in both 2001 and 2002, and most recently in the first round in 2012.
The Badgers are just two games away from bringing home a state title for the first time since 2003.
“We’re playing better ball than when we played St. Paul the first time, but so is St. Paul,” Cobb said. “It’s going to be a good game.”