SANDY — It was a valiant effort, but the La Grande High School football team saw its season come to an end with a hard-fought loss to Estacada in the 4A OSAA state quarterfinals. The Tigers were bested 44-22 by the Rangers at Sandy High School on Friday, Nov. 12.

Despite clawing back into the game near halftime, La Grande could not keep up with Estacada in the second half as the Rangers ran off with a victory.

It was a slow start for La Grande, going three-and-out on its first three drives of offense. On the very first drive of the game, Estacada blocked a punt attempt by the Tigers that set up the Rangers at the La Grande 17-yard line within the first minute of action.

Estacada capitalized on the good field position and scored on a three-yard rushing touchdown from senior Jake Behrman. The Rangers took an early 8-0 lead.

After three offensive drives, La Grande was held to -2 yards on offense as Estacada controlled the tempo early. The Tigers’ defense was stout early on, which kept the team in the game. Even so, the Rangers managed a five-yard touchdown run by Waylon Riedel after a methodical drive to extend the lead to 16-0 just six seconds into the second quarter.

La Grande responded with a resounding offensive drive, as senior Coby Hibbert ran for a 57-yard run on a direct snap. One play later, senior Brody MacMillan ran in a 29-yard touchdown to put the first points on the board for La Grande. With 10:26 left in the first half, the Tigers trailed 16-7.

Estacada responded to La Grande’s first score and extended the lead back to three possessions. Behrman scored his second rushing touchdown of the night from nine yards out to give the Rangers a 24-7 lead with 7:24 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers answered back in a big way on the ensuing drive, as junior quarterback Logan Williams connected with junior receiver Jace Schow for a 55-yard touchdown pass. The big play cut Estacada’s lead to 24-14 with 6:02 remaining in the second quarter.

The offensive effort from both sides kept rolling in the second quarter, as Estacada scored on an 11-yard touchdown run by Turner Jackson to go up 30-14 with just 1:28 left in the half.

Looking to avoid letting the game slip away, the Tigers came away with a huge final drive of the first half. After a deep throw set up the Tigers with first-and-goal from the two-yard line, MacMillan rushed in to cut the lead to 30-22 with just seconds remaining in the first half.

After a strong offensive showing in the first half, La Grande was blanked in the second half as Estacada’s ground-and-pound running style wore down the Tigers.

Neither team scored in the third quarter as both defenses made big stops. La Grande’s defense came up with a huge stop midway through the third quarter, holding Estacada on a fourth-and-one attempt from the La Grande 24-yard line.

With the Tigers driving early in the fourth quarter, a fumble recovered by Estacada at the Estacada 32-yard line proved to be a costly mistake. Just when it looked like La Grande could gain the lead, Estacada quarterback Cory James ran in a 52-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive. The big score got the home crowd on its feet and gave the Rangers a 38-22 lead with nine minutes remaining in the final quarter.

The Tigers struggled to get any offensive production late in the game, as the Rangers held momentum through the final whistle. One last touchdown on the ground by James from 22 yards out put the game out of reach. Estacade would jump out to a 44-22 lead with 5:20 remaining in the game and hold on to win the game.

The quarterfinal loss ends a strong season for La Grande, in which the team went 7-2 and won the Great Oregon League title. Estacada proved to be the Tigers’ achilles heel this year, as both of the team’s losses this season came to the Rangers.

Estacada will advance to play Marist Catholic in the semifinal round on Nov. 20.

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