The prospects for putting points on the Clemens Field scoreboard Friday night were not looking good for Philomath as time slipped away on a running clock late in the fourth quarter.
Marist Catholic, last season’s Class 4A state runner-up and unbeaten in Special District 3, held a 49-0 lead and were a little more than 3 minutes away from posting its first shutout of the season. The Spartans had Philomath backed up into a fourth-and-10 situation after three straight incompletions.
But then something improbable happened.
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s 49-7 football loss to Marist Catholic on Friday.
Sophomore receiver Warwick Bushnell ran about 10 yards downfield, did a quick hitch and stopped in an area of the field where Philomath with a completion could pick up a first down. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Russell, however, thought Bushnell was going deep and he launched a high pass.
“Since it was high and bad, I was able to keep going and get to it,” Bushnell said. “The DB (defensive back) had no idea what was happening.”
Bushnell got to the ball, made the catch and ended up with a 35-yard touchdown. Marist Catholic won the game, 49-7, but the Warriors had that moment in time to feel good about something on what had been a long night.
“It was a fluke play — it was perfectly bad and it worked out,” Bushnell laughed. “That was the last play of the game (for Philomath’s offense) and I was super happy to get that touchdown.”
Marist Catholic scored two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters to take a 42-0 lead into the fourth. Senior quarterback Jackson Gibeau had thrown two TD passes to junior Peyton Tyner — one covering 23 yards in the second and another going 28 yards in the third — and also connected with senior AJ Sargent on a 49-yard touchdown pass in the first.
“It’s probably the best football team we’ve seen all year,” PHS coach Alex Firth said. “A lot of back-end speed that probably caught us off guard a little bit early in terms of defense — the speed at the receiver position.”
Marist (6-1 overall, 4-0 Special District 3) also scored twice on TD runs by senior Drew Prickel and on a short run by senior Blake Herring. Once the Spartans went up 35-0, the running clock mercy rule kicked in.
“We made some adjustments and I thought we played well early on,” Firth said. “We’re walking wounded at this point … we’re pretty beat up. We’re plugging holes but the kids keep fighting. I told them after the game that I will never question their toughness.”
The Spartans scored their last touchdown in the opening 20 seconds of the fourth quarter on a 7-yard run by senior Orion Van Buskirk to increase the margin to 49-0.
On Philomath’s ensuing possession, the Warriors set up shop on their own 33 with hopes of making something happen on offense. On a second-and-9, Russell connected with freshman receiver CD Nuno for nine yards and the first down. Russell then threw an eight-yard strike to Bushnell and the Warriors appeared to have something going.
But the momentum shifted on the very next play when Russell was sacked for a 7-yard loss. On third-and-nine, Russell hit senior tight end Ty May for six yards, which was short of a first down, but Marist helped with a late hit out of bounds. A 15-yard personal foul on the Spartans gave Philomath a first down.
That’s when those three straight incompletions occurred leading into the fourth-down play that ended with Bushnell in the end zone.
“It’s just a good football team … we ran up against a really good football team that I expect to make a pretty deep run into the playoffs,” Firth said.
On the night, Philomath wasn’t able to move the ball much on offense. The Warriors finished with 111 total yards — 116 passing and minus-5 running. Sixty-seven of those total yards came on the team’s final drive.
Marist, meanwhile, racked up 325 yards on the evening with 183 coming on the ground.
“Everyone keeps telling us we’re a good football team and we just don’t have the numbers compared to everyone else,” Bushnell said. “We had a lot of our JV kids in today, a lot of freshmen. We always do good in the first half and in the second half, we kinda fall apart. We don’t have anyone to keep it going.”
Philomath’s struggles to run the ball took a toll and starting quarterback Kaden Muir exited the game with an injury. The team had already lost its No. 1 running back a couple of weeks ago in David Griffith so Firth was utilizing whatever he could on Philomath’s thin roster. The Warriors went 0-for-10 on third down, Marist blocked a punt on special teams and PHS quarterbacks were sacked twice.
“They understand the situation, we’re young, they get it,” Firth said. “They keep their heads up. Like I said, they’re tough, tough kids and they battle through. We just need about 25 more of them and we’ll be good.”
Russell and Muir combined at quarterback and completed 10 of 25 passes with three interceptions. Bushnell had four catches for 45 yards while May and Nuno caught two apiece for 52 and 13 yards, respectively.
The Warriors (1-6 overall, 1-4 Special District 3) will next play Klamath Union on Friday, Oct. 21 at Clemens Field for homecoming week and Senior Night. The regular season ends the following week with a trip to Sweet Home.