ROCK FALLS – There’s documented evidence that a snake can survive decapitation.
So how scary would it be if the snake had, say, six heads?
That primal fear is what teams will have to contend with now that the Oregon Hawks clinched a playoff berth with a 41-18 victory over Rock Falls on Friday at Hinders Field.
“We’ve got a one-, two-, three-, four-, five-, six-punch in the backfield, and we’re full force,” Oregon senior Sawyer Reynolds said.
Technically, one of those heads – senior tight end Pierce Dhaese – splits wide for the Hawks (5-4, 3-3 Big Northern West). Semantics aside, Oregon showed off how deadly it can be with its roster intact.
Reynolds (7 rushes, 85 yards) and Nick Newman (20-111) both rushed for two touchdowns, and Oregon blew things open late to avenge a 41-36 loss in last season’s finale to the Rockets (1-8, 0-6).
“Last year, we ended the season heartbroken,” Reynolds said. “Going into this season, I wasn’t going to let that happen again. We got the team together, rallied together, and we pushed through like the second-toughest schedule in the state to get in the playoffs.”
Junior Garrett Rude, who missed a game earlier with a concussion, added 119 yards and a score on 17 carries, and Ashton Rutherford, who returned last week from an ankle sprain, had 33 yards on nine carries and a score.
“I feel like it’s all come together,” Newman said. “It was important to get them back there. They play crucial roles on both the offense and defense, and really bring the team together.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Blume was 2-for-3, hitting Dhaese twice for 68 yards. Oregon racked up 339 yards on 57 carries, and Rock Falls, without its leading rusher, Brendon Le-Barron, was one-dimensional. It registered minus-4 yards on 16 carries, and threw the ball 48 times for 207 yards.
Four of the Rockets’ carries were sacks, the last by Newman, who flung Jake Mammosser to the ground, the proverbial nail in the coffin on Rock Falls’ penultimate drive with the Rockets down 34-18.
Mammosser was 20-for-37 for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Tanner Mortonson got the start on Senior Night and went 8-for-11 on the opening drive, but it ended on a pick on a desperation heave on third-and-19, Adam Bettner leaping to grab it at the Oregon 5.
“I’ve been behind Jake for 4 years. It just felt good to get in there and get the start. It felt good, but I was nervous, too,” Mortonson said. “It’s easy to turn it back over to Jake. He’s better than I am, and he’s been doing this so much longer that I have. I knew for the better of the team, I had to give it to him.”
Reynolds’ 1-yard plunge got Oregon on the board with 8:18 left in the first half, and Mammosser hit Connor Cain for two fourth-down conversions on the next drive. Both points after failed, making it 6-6 at the break.
Reynolds broke free for a 46-yard score, slipping a tackle at the 5 early in the third. Despite losing their third fumble – and the second in the red zone – on the next drive, Oregon blocked the Rockets’ punt three plays later, setting up a 4-yard Newman score.
The teams traded scores, and Oregon used long drives to salt away the game.
The Hawks entered the game with 45 playoff points, the second most in the state among 4-4 teams. Cutting their teeth on the rough-and-tumble BNC West evoked a battle cry in the huddle afterward.
“Who do we have to be afraid of?” said 16-year Oregon coach John Bothe, who got his 100th win Friday night. “We’ve been on the field with teams that are as good as anybody in 3A.
“Whether we can do it or not, we’ll find out next week. But there’s no reason to be going into somebody’s place and being intimidated because we’re 5-4. I’d expect us to play pretty well.”