By C.J. GISH
Of The (La Grande) Observer
HILLSBORO Of the two race cars in a neck-and-neck battle Saturday, the Powder Valley Badgers blew a tire on the way to the finish line.
Fourth-ranked St. Paul, behind a punishing running game that racked up 622 yards, took advantage of two key Badger injuries en route to a 72-34 win Saturday in the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 1A state football semifinals.
The Buckaroos (10-1) scored 42 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and had a huge performance from junior running back Manuel Ramos, who had 29 carries for 329 yards and six touchdowns.
We couldnt stop the run, thats for sure, Powder Valley coach Alan Stanfield said. The disappointment is pretty heavy.
St. Paul will play Dufur on Dec. 1 for the state title. Dufur defeated Alsea 58-20 Saturday.
Second-ranked Powder Valley (10-1) was trying to advance for the second-straight year to the state title game, where it came up short against Dufur in 2000.
The avalanche of points started after Powder Valley sophomore quarterback Todd Baxter left the game early in the fourth quarter when he popped his left knee out of place for the third time in the contest.
Sixteen seconds into the fourth quarter, Baxter found senior running back Brody Turner on a short pass on third-and-13. Turner spun around and broke two tackles, racing 74 yards for a touchdown and a 34-30 Badger lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, St. Pauls Joe Wilson took off at the Buckaroos 28 and went 72 yards, putting St. Paul ahead for good, 36-34.
The Badgers were held to three-and-outs on their next two series while Ramos scored on runs of 4 and 50 yards for a 52-34 edge.
Powder Valleys last chance to get back into the game came on its next drive. Baxter took off for 59 yards to St. Pauls 16, but at the end of the play his knee popped out. It would mark his last appearance in the contest.
I should have kept him out (after the knee popped out twice in the first half), Stanfield said. You dont mess with a knee.
Sophomore Deven Thompson took Baxters place, but threw a pass that was intercepted by Joel Halter at the goal line and returned to the St. Paul 10.
Following a Ramos 16-yard run, junior quarterback Damian Wylie, who rushed for 232 yards, broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown run.
Ramos added a 17-yard score following another Powder three-and-out series.
They were running that counter play in the first half, but we were able to contain it, Stanfield said. In the second half, Riley (Martin) got hurt, and hes our run stopper.
Trouble continued to strike the Badgers. Freshman Cody Taylor scooped up a kickoff at the 1-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back on a Powder clipping penalty.
Four plays later, Taylor, at quarterback, fumbled the snap and the ball was recovered in the end zone by St. Paul defensive lineman Pat Charron for the final score.
Thompson was intercepted on a deep pass on the Badgers next possession to end the game.
Everything was going Powders way early. Baxter found Martin on a deep pass for a 55-yard score 49 seconds into the game.
The Badgers forced St. Paul to punt on the Bucks first series and didnt take long to pick up their second score.
Keyed by a 40-yard Martin run, which featured two broken tackles, the Badgers scored when Baxter ran 2 yards on a quarterback keeper. A two-point pass to Martin gave Powder a 14-0 lead.
In the first quarter, we didnt make any defensive adjustments, St. Paul coach Jay Phillips said.
St. Paul showed its ball-control prowess on its next drive by going 71 yards on 14 plays in five minutes, capped by a Ramos 4-yard score.
Baxter scored four plays into the second quarter on a drive that was highlighted by a 26-yard pass to Martin and a 22-yard pass to senior John Dean.
Both teams exchanged scores Ramos on a 42-yard run and Turner on a leaping 1-yard plunge before St. Paul climbed within 28-22 on a Wylie 1-yard quarterback sneak with 36 seconds left in the half.
Powder nearly scored before halftime. With Baxter scrambling, he lobbed a pass to Martin, who hauled it in for 51 yards and was dragged down by two St. Paul defenders at the Bucks 19.
Baxters next pass was just off Ryan Brownes hands in the end zone. The next play a screen pass to Martin went just 4 yards as time expired.
Baxter completed 12-of-18 passes for 219 yards in the first half. Martin caught seven of those passes for 180 yards and added 49 yards rushing as Powder tallied 373 offensive yards to St. Pauls 252.
The Buckaroos only threw one pass the entire game but ran the ball 65 times.
We knew we needed to run the ball and keep it away from (Powder Valley), Phillips said. We knew they were explosive on offense.
Powder Valley 14 14 0 6 34
St. Paul 8 14 8 42 72
PV Riley Martin 55 pass from Todd Baxter (pass failed)
PV Baxter 2 run (Martin pass from Baxter)
SP Manuel Ramos 4 run (Joe Wilson run)
PV Baxter 10 run (run failed)
SP Ramos 42 run (Damian Wylie run)
PV Brody Turner 1 run (Martin pass from Baxter)
SP Wylie 1 run (run failed
SP Ramos 27 run (Wylie run)
PV Turner 74 pass from Baxter (run failed)
SP Wilson 72 kickoff return (pass failed)
SP Ramos 4 run (Ramos run)
SP Ramos 50 run (Wilson run)
SP Wylie 74 run (pass failed)
SP Ramos 17 run (run failed)
SP Pat Charron fumble recovery in end zone (Kyle Anderson run)
RUSHING Powder Valley, Baxter 9-108, Martin 3-51, Turner 10-40, Thompson 4-20, Dozhier 1-2, Taylor 1-0, R. Browne 2-(minus 2). St. Paul, Ramos 29-329, Wylie 22-232, J. Wilson 13-62, Je. Halter 1-(minus 1).
PASSING Powder Valley, Baxter 13-24-0-293, Thompson 1-8-2-(minus 6), Taylor 0-1-0-0. St. Paul, Wylie 1-1-0-(minus 2).
RECEIVING Powder Valley, Martin 7-180, Turner 4-80, R.Browne 2-5, Dean 1-22. St. Paul, McKillip 1-(minus 2).