HILLSBORO – It took more than a century, but Estacada finally has its first football state championship.
The fifth-seeded Rangers -- who had played in one previous championship game, losing in 1953 -- used their punishing ground game and rock-solid defense to subdue No. 6 Tillamook 32-8 in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 4A final Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.
It was fitting that their first title came in a manner that reflected the Cascade foothill town. The gritty, hard-working Rangers didn't do anything fancy, they just overpowered the Cheesemakers, setting a state-championship game record for time of possession by controlling the ball for 35 minutes, 23 seconds.
“That's what we pride ourselves in is ball control,” Estacada coach Andy Mott said. “We felt like if we could take care of the rock, we'd have a heck of a game.”
Estacada (12-1) rushed for 329 of its 368 yards, led by 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior Waylon “Tank” Riedel, who pounded for 125 yards on 24 carries. Senior James Durand rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and senior quarterback Cory James added 67 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
“I feel like mostly when we get stopped, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties or turnovers,” Riedel said. “I'd go toe-to-toe with anyone in the state.”
The Rangers dominated the trenches behind senior right guard Dominic Nacoste (6-5, 255) and senior right tackle Cody White (6-7, 270). They had scoring drives of 12, 14, 6, 16 and 11 plays.
“We knew we were going to punch you in the mouth and we were going to keep doing it for all four quarters of the game,” Nacoste said. “We were the most physical team in the state, I think. I thought, 'We've got the line of scrimmage locked.'”
It proved to be too much for Tillamook (10-3), which also was going for its first title.
“We ran into a juggernaut tonight for sure,” Cheesemakers coach Kye Johnson said. “Their whole line is really impressive, but the guys on the right side are superior 4A offensive linemen, for sure. And then you mix in some of the other backs they have, they can get downhill on you.”
The Rangers made a habit out of wearing down opponents – three, four and five yards at a time.
“It demoralizes them,” Nacoste said. “They get tired. They really just want that stop so they can get off the field and go on O.”
Last year, Estacada won a school-record 11 games and made the semifinals before losing to Marist Catholic. With four starters back on the offensive line – Nacoste, White and seniors Andrew Turner and Mariano Martinez – the Rangers anticipated a big season, but were deflated in the opener when they lost at home to Mazama 26-14.
“Week 1, Mazama punched us in the mouth, and I think that was kind of a wake-up call for us,” Mott said. “At the end of the day, as we got going through the playoffs, we just felt like we could roll with anybody in the trenches.”
On their first possession Saturday, the Rangers drove 67 yards in 12 plays to take an 8-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by James and a two-point conversion run by senior Payton Matney.
In the second quarter, they marched 90 yards in 14 plays, getting a two-yard touchdown run from Durand, to lead 14-0. Durand scored on a five-yard run to make it 22-0 with 37 seconds left in the first half.
Estacada started the second half with a 16-play drive that ate 8:32 off the clock and ended with a 30-yard field goal by senior Ben Haefs, extending the lead to 25-0.
Tillamook's defense, led by senior lineman Sam Diaz, couldn't get off the field as the Rangers kept blasting away.
“It's kind of hard to catch your breath,” said Diaz, who had a team-high 18 tackles. “It was tough. It was real tough.”
It was especially difficult for the Cheesemakers to corral Riedel.
“I tried to get down as best I could and stop his legs from moving, because he's kind of like a train,” Diaz said. “It's pretty hard to stop him once he gets going.”
Riedel rushed for 965 yards this season. He also was a force at linebacker.
“Just a total Ranger football player, when it comes down to it,” Mott said. “Offensively, defensively, tons of grit and heart. That's the kind of guy you want on your side.”
Riedel running behind Nacoste and White on the right side was close to a sure thing for the Rangers.
“We would go behind them when we needed big yards, big plays,” Mott said.
Tillamook got a spark late in the third quarter when junior quarterback Tanner Hoskins threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to senior Zeyon Hurliman, cutting the lead to 25-8. The Cheesemakers forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, but couldn't get a first down, and their momentum subsided.
The Rangers held Tillamook to 244 yards and a season-low point total. Hoskins completed 8 of 17 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, by Matney and senior Tucker Jackson.
Estacada finished the scoring on an 18-yard touchdown run by James with two minutes left in the game. All that remained for the Rangers was celebrating with the throng of Estacada supporters who witnessed history for a program that started in the early 1900s.
“At the end of last year, it kind of left a bitter taste in our mouths,” Nacoste said. “We wanted this one. We had one last shot, and this was it, so we took it all the way.”
The season also was historic for Tillamook, which had one previous finals appearance (1977). The Cheesemakers believe they set a new standard for their program.
“Eight years ago when I got to Tillamook, the Cheesemakers were down and out and the Cowapa League was tough,” Johnson said. “There was nowhere for us to go. It was tough for us to find .500 seasons. But we've just kept getting better and better every year. We have a lot more consistency in our program.”