Down 14-0 at halftime to Sisters on a chilly Friday night at Clemens Field, the Philomath High School football team didn’t want to end the season with a lackluster effort.
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The Warriors needed to create some energy, execute better on offense and not give up big plays on defense. The task may have seemed monumental with an injury-plagued squad that only had 21 players available.
Philomath did play much better in the second half and had a chance at victory in the fourth quarter. But Sisters held on and got out of Dodge with a 21-15 victory.
“We had a serious talk at halftime about if we were going to give in and let them walk over us or if we were going to come back,” PHS quarterback Caleb Jensen said. “I think it was the first drive of the second half and we made something happen and they got a little bit nervous … you could tell the energy was changing.”
The Warriors put together a seven-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle by junior Jake Williams. Philomath moved the chains on fourth down on a breakaway run by Jensen and on the next play, sophomore Josh Peters hauled in a 39-yard pass to set up the short-yardage situation near the goal line.
Sisters regrouped late in the third quarter and scored a touchdown on the first play of the fourth when quarterback Griffin Gardner ran it in. The Warriors responded with one of their most exciting touchdown drives of the season.
The possession didn’t look good in the early going with Philomath facing a third-and-11 at its own 9-yard line. But Sisters was whistled for a penalty to move the ball up 5 yards and then Jensen connected with junior Isaac Lattin for a 24-yard gain that moved the chains.
Jensen then broke off a 27-yard run for another first down. The back-to-back big plays moved the ball up to the Sisters 35. Later on a fourth-and-2, Jensen picked up 3 yards, enough to keep the drive alive.
Senior Issiah Blackburn, who had moved from the offensive line to running back during the series, picked up 5 yards on first down. Sophomore David Griffith followed with a 6-yard run and then Jensen had back-to-back runs to get the ball into the end zone. The touchdown came on a 6-yard run with 6:22 remaining in the game and Jensen ran in a two-point conversion to cut the visitor’s lead to 21-15.
Philomath attempted an onside kick to try to get the ball back but a Sisters player fell on it. The Outlaws picked up three first downs and ate up the remaining game time to clinch the win.
Jensen said the game was a lot of fun to play but added that the loss hurt. Still, he was glad to see that the team kept fighting to the end.
“Everybody really left it on the field. You look at David — David’s limping, he rolled his ankle every play. Issiah, he was doing everything he could. Everybody that went in did everything that they could,” Jensen said.
“It’s fun to be part of a team that does good things, but even after a loss like this, it’s fun knowing that in the second half, we left it all on the field,” Jensen added.
Sisters scored touchdowns in the first and second quarters to take that 14-0 lead in at the half. Gardner hit Nate Weber on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:29 left in the first and Gardner scored on a 6-yard TD run at 9:57 in the second.
Lineman Connar Kohn, one of four seniors on the roster, enjoyed battling the Outlaws throughout the game.
“They were very much there for us. It was good, we were in that for the whole thing,” Kohn said. “I was really happy to see a team that actually matches us instead of just being way above or way below — a good fight is my favorite thing against a team.”
Sisters had a slight advantage in total yards at 225 to 213. But the Outlaws had much-better success converting on third and fourth downs to sustain drives. Philomath also had to work through penalties in the second half.
“What I take away from this season is the growth from last year to this year — the fact that they competed every snap,” PHS coach Tony Matta said. “When things went bad, they responded.”
Matta talked to the team before the fourth quarter drive that ended with a touchdown. He said he told the team that “this is the time when you see what you’re made of and you’ve got to step up. And the guys did, they reacted well.”
Philomath played the game without three key starters. Sophomore Ty May and junior Carson Gerding both had season-ending injuries a few games ago and senior Chase Beardsley couldn’t play against Sisters because of a shoulder that he hurt last week.
“Those three guys right there, that’s six positions because they play on both sides of the ball,” Matta said. “But the other guys stepped up. … It was an opportunity for the other guys to show what they can do and I think we saw some things that we really like.”
Jensen completed 4 of 6 passes for 81 yards and no interceptions, and he also had a team-high 62 rushing yards on 13 carries. Griffith finished with 60 yards rushing on 15 carries. Junior Alek Russell caught two balls for 18 yards.
For Sisters, Gardner ran for 86 yards and threw for 42. Hayden Sharp finished with 53 yards rushing on six carries.
Philomath ends the season with a 4-2 record while Sisters finishes at 2-4.
Sisters 21, Philomath 15
Friday, April 9 at Philomath HS
|SIS—Nate Weber 21 pass from Griffin Gardner (Nathaniel Alvarez kick), 2:29|
|SIS—Griffin Gardner 6 run (Nathaniel Alvarez kick), 9:57|
|PHS—Jake Williams 2 run (Isaac Lattin kick), 9:33|
|SIS—Griffin Gardner 9 run (Nathaniel Alvarez kick), 11:56|
PHS—Caleb Jensen 6 run (Caleb Jensen run), 6:22
|>> Third-Down Efficiency||5-12||1-8|
|>> Fourth-Down Efficiency||3-5||2-4|
|>> Yards Per Pass||3.8||13.5|
|>> Yards Per Attempt||4.6||3.8|
|>> Punt Returns (No-Yds)||1-4||0-0|
|>> Kickoff Returns (No-Yds)||3-55||3-30|
|>> Interception Returns (No-Yds)||0-0||0-0|
|>> Special Teams||0-0||1-10|
|>> Interceptions Thrown||0||0|
Sisters: Griffin Gardner 22-86, Hayden Sharp 6-53, Hunter Spor 8-37, Wyatt Maffey 3-9, Riley Sellers 1-(-2).
Philomath: Caleb Jensen 13-62, David Griffith 15-60, Jake Williams 4-5, Issiah Blackburn 3-5.
Sisters: Griffin Gardner 6-11-0-42.
Philomath: Caleb Jensen 4-6-0-81.
Sisters: Hayden Sharp 2-21, Nate Weber 1-21, Hunter Spor 1-3, Wyatt Maffey 1-0, Riley Sellers 1-(-3).
Philomath: Alek Russell 2-18, Josh Peters 1-39, Isaac Lattin 1-24.
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