The La Grande Tigers easily dispatched their first-round playoff opponent, and in the process set up a quarterfinal rematch a year in the making.
Parker Robinson threw four touchdown passes, Nathan Reed rushed for 157 yards and two long scores, and La Grande routed the Estacada Rangers, 49-16, Friday in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Community Stadium.
“It’s been probably the best week of practice we’ve had all season,” head coach Rich McIlmoil said. “And it really showed. We were executing, and the offensive line was executing really well tonight. They looked really sharp. The hard work they put in shows.”
The victory, which sent the Tigers to the quarterfinals for the third year in a row, puts them into a home quarterfinal contest against a familiar foe, the Gladstone Gladiators. Gladstone, which blew out North Valley 51-14 in its first-round contest, edged La Grande in the quarterfinals last fall, 30-27.
“I’m happy,” Robinson said of getting another crack at Gladstone. “The way it ended last year wasn’t how we wanted it to be. I’m happy that we get another shot.”
La Grande scored early, often and, many times, quickly against the Rangers. Five of the Tigers’ scoring possessions were four plays or fewer, as La Grande showed a quick-strike ability both through the air and on the ground. La Grande’s first TD, a 13-yard reception by Justin Frederick, came on the Tigers’ third play. Robinson, who threw three of his touchdown passes to Blaine Shaw, hooked up with the receiver on passes of 42 and 41 yards — one to cap a three-play drive and one a four-play drive — to help La Grande take a 28-0 lead just 25 seconds into the second quarter. Shaw also had a 33-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half.
“I gotta give all the credit to the D-line and O-line. They did awesome tonight,” Robinson said. “Offensively, the reason we had such big plays running the ball was because of the offensive line. They did their jobs. They did everything we practiced this week.”
The lead held at 28-0 at the half when the Tigers put an end to Estacada’s only effective first-half drive. The Rangers drove 69 yards on 14 plays — more yards than they had their previous six first-half possessions — but were held out of the end zone when quarterback Isaiah Schaffer was stuffed at the 1-yard line on the final play of the second quarter.
“We knew our assignments. We were coached up and knew what to do,” lineman Spencer Gerst said of the play of the defense. “We’re starting to really figure things out. We’re on a roll.”
McIlmoil credited defensive coordinator Matt Wolcott for putting together a solid game plan.
“He’s got them dialed in,” McIlmoil said. “He scouted them perfectly. We knew what we needed to do.”
Reed, who had 43 yards rushing at the half, broke out for 42-yard and 62-yard touchdown sprints in the third quarter, the latter coming one play after Estacada got on the board for a 49-8 lead. Robinson and Shaw added another 36-yard touchdown connection between Reed’s scores.
The Tiger defense stymied the Rangers’ methodical triple-option running game, locking Estacada down to the point that the only way it effectively moved the ball was with a hurry-up pass attack. The Rangers rushed the ball 50 times but managed just 123 yards on the ground. Schaffer accounted for nearly half of that, gaining 61 yards on 20 carries. Schaffer was 11-for-22 passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns — one of 35 yards to Riley McDonald in the third quarter and a 16-yard pass to Nate Hagel in the closing seconds.
Estacada managed 286 yards of offense but needed 73 plays to do so, averaging just 3.9 yards per play and 2.5 yards per rush. More than half of the Rangers’ run plays — 29 of them — went for 2 yards or less.
La Grande was much more efficient, running just 36 plays, but gained 348 yards, a 9.7 yard-per-play clip. Robinson was 4-for-7 passing for 132 yards. La Grande, led by Reed’s effort, rushed for 216 yards.
The Tigers (9-0 overall) face Gladstone Friday at Community Stadium.
“I want revenge. We’re not going to leave it to a 47-yard field goal this time,” Gerst said of the rematch, referencing the field goal made by Gladstone’s Mateo Burgos for the win last year. “I’m excited to play them.”