COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. — Like a musclebound Miss Cleo, Rainier junior lineman Easton Crape predicted the outcome of the team’s perfect championship season over the summer.
“I thought ‘Boy, you stuck your foot in your mouth with that one,’” Rainier coach Mike King said. “I guess he knew better than I did.”
The Columbians beat Cascade Christian 44-14 in the OSAA 3A State Championship, and finishes the season 13-0, just as Crape predicted. It’s the school’s first perfect season, and second state football title.
David Katon ran in four touchdowns, quarterback Joey Tripp scored two, and the defense pitched a second-half shutout against the top-scoring team in the state with the help of two interceptions from Devion Godfrey.
It didn’t hurt, though, that the offensive line was doubling down on the work as defensive linemen, powering the Challengers’ line back and wearing it down by the second half.
The Columbians run game began gaining more ground with each run after the second quarter, three-yard rushes turned into four-yarders, and those into five-yard scampers.
“It’s always a team effort,” King said. “We try to play a physical brand of football that teams just don’t like. That’s what we do.”
What Rainier did Saturday was run for 444 yards, throwing only two times. Not once did attempt to hide the gameplan.
“It was Easton Crape and all the linemen — Logan Keizur, Cam (Governale), Nate (Gaines) and those guys just powering us,” Joey Tripp said. “They started getting up slow in the second half, and we just kept going after them and they replaced them with a new guy. So we’d just go after them.”
The first half was a little tighter than the second, a tie score ushered in the intermission. Rainier nearly broke the 14-14 tie, though, after Kenney Tripp intercepted a pass near the red zone with two minutes left in the second quarter.
The Columbians marched down to their own red zone, but time expired just before they could get a timeout in the books.
It was a big momentum changer, as the Challengers looked prime to receive the second-half kickoff with a 21-14 lead, and they hadn’t been slowed much over the first few drives.
“It was big,” King said. “We knew they’re getting the ball in the second half. We knew if they score, and then score in the second half, then they could be celebrating right now. It was a great big swing. The freshman made a play. Then Devion (Godfrey) made a few plays.”
By the third quarter, Rainier was feeling excellent about the outcome.
“Probably after the second one that David (Katon) broke, I figured it’s going to be tough for them to come back from that,” King said. “But the part that people probably forget about is that we pitched a shutout on defense in the second half. Isn’t that the highest scoring team in the state? I’m pretty proud of that.”
No doubt, the Columbians defense exerted its dominance, and it was widely apparent up front even before Katon broke off his second touchdown of the half. Cascade Christian linemen said as much with droopy faces and tired shoulders.
So Joey Tripp and Katon ran. They did it inside, outside, and might as well have tried to sprout wings. For the day, Tripp gained 263 yards on 34 carries, and Katon tallied 175 on 24 rushes.
Though the group rallied around its confidence over the course of the season, and predictions were made, not everyone was sold on the idea of an undefeated season.
“We never expected to go 13-0. I mean we all thought it was going to be good, with guys like Easton and Keizur and a good back like Joey behind him. We talked earlier that we’re going to win a lot of football games,” assistant coach Ron Guisinger said. “And that group we had, with that league, we felt like whoever wins that league is going to be in the championship. So that’s how it was.”
By last Sunday, all that was left to do was stick to the script Crape wrote long before strapping on the pads. The Columbians did just that.