OREGON – Considering the way Oregon’s smallish line pushed Mendota around, it seemed only appropriate that proceeds from the 50-50 drawing went to the school’s strength and conditioning program.
The Hawks overcame a major size disadvantage and kept their playoffs hopes alive with a 35-20 Big Northern West victory over Mendota.
“I was impressed with our intensity,” Oregon coach John Bothe said. “The kids understood what this game meant.”
“What happened at the line of scrimmage surprised the heck out of me,” Mendota coach Brock Sondgeroth said.
What happened was Oregon (4-4, 2-3) controlling the ball for 17 minutes of the first half and rushing for 249 yards. The Hawks jumped out to a 21-0 second-quarter lead before Mendota scored on a 39-yard pass with 16 seconds left in the half.
“We know we’ll be the smallest team on the field every night,” said Pierce Dhaese, a two-way starter at end.
“The coaches tell us the only size that matters is in your heart,” Hawk nose guard Jake Diehl said.
Dhaese and Diehl came up with big plays on defense to stop Mendota’s passing game. With the Hawks up 14-0 in the second quarter, Dhaese intercepted Jake Buchanon in the end zone to stop a potential scoring drive.
Diehl, a 175-pound nose guard playing against a 250-pound center, had consecutive sacks of Buchanon in the second half to help Oregon maintain its 21-7 lead. Ryan Miller made it three sacks in a row, as Mendota (3-5, 1-3) failed on a desperation fourth-down attempt.
“Credit to coach [Steve] Rhoads,” Diehl said. “He stresses pushing your lineman downfield and flying back when the quarterback is scrambling.”
“We were flying all over the place,” Dhaese said.
With seven quarterback sacks, Oregon had its best pass-rush game since the Tim Smith breakout game against Richmond-Burton the first week of 2011.
“They had pressure on us. We couldn’t get any protection,” said Sondgeroth, who starts four 250-pound offensive linemen.
With five different backs scoring, Oregon increased its lead to 35-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
Ashton Rutherford, returning to action after an ankle sprain 3 weeks ago, capped off an 80-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown run for the first score.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Hawks went 75 yards, with Garrett Rude adding the second touchdown on a 14-yard run.
Dhaese’s interception set up another 80-yard drive. Nick Newman, the game’s leading rusher with 131 yards, added the touchdown.
“I don’t think [Mendota] expected the way we controlled the game,” Bothe said.
Fullback Sawyer Reynolds and quarterback Tyler Blume added scores in the second half for an Oregon team that threw one pass all night.
“They don’t run many plays, but the ones they do, they execute so well,” Sondgeroth said.
Speedy Wyatt Martinson came in averaging 164 yards rushing a game, but was held to 44 yards by the stingy Hawk defense.