OREGON – Trailing Momence 21-13 and facing a fourth down early in the third quarter, Oregon’s football team needed a spark.
The Hawks got one on the very next play, as Ashton Rutherford ran for a 56-yard touchdown.
The score proved pivotal in the Hawks' 28-21 win.
“That was the biggest gap I’ve seen,” said Rutherford, who broke free from the line of scrimmage behind the block of tackle Travis Burke and end Josh Cook. “All the credit goes to the line”
Rutherford wasn’t finished. The next time he touched the ball, he broke five tackles on his way to a 15-yard score.
“I don’t know what got into him,” Burke said.
“That play was pretty crazy,” Rutherford said. “When they hit me, I used a hip twist move I learned in wrestling to get out of the tackles.”
For a fourth-quarter encore, the 5-8, 170-pounder carried the pile 5 yards on a third-and-11 situation to keep a drive alive, and then clinched the win with a 7-yard run on fourth down, all part of 121 second-half rushing yards.
“Two things he did that stood out were crediting his offensive line when he scored and sliding down after getting that last first down,” Oregon coach John Bothe said.
Nick Newman set up Oregon’s first score with a 54-yard sweep over the right side. Fullback Sawyer Reynolds crashed over from 1 yard out for an early 7-0 lead.
After Momence took a 14-7 lead, it was a 40-yard kickoff return by Newman that set up another score. On fourth-and-goal, quarterback Tyler Blume connected with Pierce Dhaese for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
After Rutherford’s touchdown pulled Oregon to within 21-19, it was a 2-point conversion from Blume to Dhaese that tied the game. A 27-yard pass play between Blume and Dhaese set up Rutherford’s final score.
“They executed better than us on offense and had a good defensive plan,” Momence coach Matt Fox said. “They wore us down.”
Dhaese and Garrett Rude had interceptions in the fourth quarter for Oregon. Sophomore Matt Crandall, who had a crushing tackle on Tony Greenwood earlier in the game, pressured 6-5, 215-pound quarterback Aaron Cantwell into a bad throw on Rude's pick.
“This was a big win. We needed this to start the season,” Rutherford said.
“We focused on our mental toughness throughout the preseason,” Burke said.