By Mike Weber
For the Baker City Herald
SCAPPOOSE - Traveling to Scappoose to face the No. 1-ranked Indians with home field advantage and in inclement weather (rain), it certainly wasn't ideal conditions for the ninth-ranked Baker Bulldogs (9-1) football team to pull off an upset.
That's exactly what the Bulldogs did though as they played exceptional defense in a 22-0 victory over Scappoose in the Class 4A quarterfinals Saturday at Scappoose High School.
The three-time Greater Oregon League-champion Bulldogs, led by 11-year head coach Dave Johnson, advanced to the 4A semifinals and will meet the Cascade Cougars (10-1) Nov. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium. The winner of that game will play in the Dec. 1 championship game against the winner of the other semifinal (North Bend vs. Ontario).
"We love being in the semis and our goal every year is to have Thanksgiving Day practice and that's what we'll be doing this year," said Johnson.
"We had a tremendous defensive effort with our five guys (Jorden Osborn, Zach Cook, Tyson Watson, Grayson Swiger, Dan Stinson) up front just doing a great job on the defensive line and offensive line. Those five guys have been the key to our success all year and they did a great job today."
Steady rain created muddy and slippery field conditions on a soggy grass field for the noon contest. It certainly didn't seem to affect the play of the Bulldogs though, who unlike the Indians, really aren't accustomed to playing in those type of weather conditions.
"We don't get much rain at home, but we try to acclimate ourselves as much as possible to these type of weather conditions by practicing with a wet football," said Johnson, who led Baker to the 2010 state title.
"We take pride in calling ourselves 'Road Warriors' because it's tough to come out here and play after a six-hour drive. It's part of the Eastern Oregon toughness that we like to talk about all the time, which is something we bring with us on road trips and try to use it to our advantage."
Both squads gained very little yardage on their first three offensive possessions, which contributed to a scoreless first quarter and a low scoring first half.
The momentum started to change in favor of Baker late in the first quarter, when senior free safety Dane Bachman intercepted a pass thrown by Scappoose quarterback Taylor Loss. Bachman picked off the pass at the Baker 24-yard line and he returned the ball 22 yards to Baker's 46.
"I just try to be in the right place at the right time, which is exactly the way we do it in practice," said Bachman, who has a total of four interceptions this year. "The coaches (Bret Prock, Jason Ramos, Joel Richardson, Garrette Smith) helped us get well prepared for the game and we just came out played hard and gave it everything we've got to come up with the win."
An eight-play, 54-yard drive included mostly running plays such as a 14-yard run by Baker senior quarterback Braden Phillips (20 carries, 91 yards rushing) to the Indians 17-yard line. After a five-yard Scappoose offsides penalty moved the ball to the 12, Phillips scored on a 6-yard scramble up the middle. A two-point conversion run by junior running back Ben Baxter (19 carries, 73 yards) gave Baker an 8-0 lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
"We had a great defensive effort, which was really the key to the game and we did a pretty good job offensively too," said Phillips. "We had a little trouble throwing the ball, so we had to rely on the running game, which really helped us get the job done. This was the worst weather conditions that we've played in all year, but we weren't too worried about it. Hopefully the weather will be better next week, but if not, we'll still do our best to try and pull out another win."
On the ensuing Scappoose possession, Baxter thwarted a potential Indian scoring drive as he picked off a pass by Loss in the end zone for a touchback, giving Baker possession at its own 20 with 5:39 left in the first half.
Scappoose was again unable to move the ball against a highly formidable Bulldogs defense and was forced to punt. Baker started it's final series deep in its own territory though at the 11. The Bulldogs were able to move down field though and went 54 yards in six plays to the Scappoose 35, but the clock expired as it remained 8-0 at the half.
Baker had excellent field position at the beginning of the second half, when junior Mason Cline recovered an onside kick by the Indians at the Bulldogs 49. An eight play, 51-yard drive was highlighted by Bachman's 26-yard reception on a pass from Phillips (8-for-14, 110 yards passing) and culminated with an 18-yard Phillips touchdown run up the middle.
Senior running back/defensive back Trent Taylor, the GOL Defensive Player-of-the-Year, provided a key block to clear a path for Phillips on his way to the end zone. The conversion run failed, but Baker led 14-0 with 8:04 left in the third quarter. Taylor, Baker's leading ball carrier, was slowed by a right ankle sprain he sustained last week and he didn't start Saturday. Baxter, the backup running back, took over for Taylor as the Bulldogs starter.
"The slippery conditions made it tough to make any shifty moves, which is the way I like to run, but I just couldn't do it," said Baxter. "It was an awesome win and you just couldn't ask for anything better. Our confidence level was high and we felt good about our chance to win. We made a statement today and now we all feel like we're capable of beating any of the remaining playoff teams. At the beginning of the season, everyone felt like we had a shot at going all the way. Now we have a real good chance of doing that."
Scappoose took Baxter's kickoff at its own 30 and needed a scoring drive to keep the game close. The Indians nearly did that too in proceeding 47 yards to Baker's 23-yard line.
In a key point of the game, Baker's defense came up with a huge play in stopping a fourth down and 7 conversion attempt by Scappoose. Baker took over possession at its own 23 with 5:56 left in the third.
Baker was unable to move the ball in its very next possession, going three downs and then punting to the Indians. The Bulldogs quickly regained the ball though as senior Jeffrey Craibill recovered an Indian fumble at the Baker 17. The Bulldogs came up empty handed though on an ensuing eight-play, 65-yard series that stalled at the Indian 18.
Scappoose took over on downs with 0:12 left in the third, as Baker remained up front 14-0 after three quarters. The Bulldog defense was rock solid as the Indians went nowhere on the series at the outset of the fourth and punted after going three downs and out.
Following the Scappoose punt, Baker started it's next series at its own 35 and utilized a balanced offense with 41 yards passing and 24 rushing on an impressive scoring drive. Baker marched 65 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a 21-yard Phillips pass to Cline at the Scappoose 19. Four plays later, Taylor scored on a 3-yard burst up the middle, followed by his two-point conversion run, making it 22-0 with 4:39 remaining in the game.
On Baker's kickoff after the TD, Scappoose had just one play, which was a pass thrown by Loss that was intercepted by Bachman at Baker's 20. The Bulldogs then ran out the remaining time (4:28) on the clock in a series that included several strong running plays for first downs by Phillips, the GOL Offensive Player-of-the-Year.
"It was a good, hard hitting contest by both teams and everyone played with lots of class and no showboating, which is common in high school game's sometimes," said Johnson, the GOL Coach-of-the-Year. "I was proud of how we played such outstanding defense while holding them scoreless. We executed our game plan very well. Our kids played with lots of heartfelt desire and determination."
Cowapa League champion Scappoose (9-2) came into the game averaging 43.2 points per game, led by Loss (2,407 yards passing) and receiver Paul Revis (1,591 yards receiving). The Bulldogs impressive 4-3 defensive scheme helped them dominate the game, particularly in the second half when they while limited Scappoose to just 13 offensive plays and forcing two of the Indians four total turnovers.
Baker outgained Scappoose in total offense 301 yard to 105. Baker totaled just five penalties for 30 yards, which was a big improvement from last week when they had 125 penalty yards in their 55-42 first round playoff win over Cottage Grove.
Baker -0 8 6 8 - 22
Scappoose- 0 0 0 0 - 0
B - Phillips 6 run (Baxter run)
B - Phillips 18 run (Run failed)
B - Taylor 3 run (Taylor run)