The Pendleton Buckaroos avoided a monumental upset — barely.
With 2:17 to play in the fourth quarter and clinging to a seven-point lead, the Bucks were backed up to their own 10-yard line with the visiting Milwaukie Mustangs driving the field. The Mustangs faced a fourth-and-three, but a delay of game penalty bumped them back five yards. On the then fourth-and-eight, quarterback Keynan Middleton threw a quick slant pass off the left side and the receiver was gobbled up by a hoard of Bucks.
Short of the first down, Pendleton (8-2, 3-0 CRC) released a collective sigh of exasperation as the Bucks ran out the clock for a 19-12 victory at Round-Up Stadium on Friday in a play-in game for the Class 5A state playoffs.
Sanders’ self-control there was one of the few things he felt positively about after the game, a matchup that favored Pendleton heavily over Milwaukie (1-9, 0-7 NWOL). A game Sanders would to have liked to have been out of reach at halftime was tied 12-12 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. An offense that sputtered behind penalties, turnovers and more injuries than it’s seen all year, was just good enough to win Friday.
“I’m happy we found a way to win in the end but it was an embarrassing game, the most embarrassing game I’ve been around as a coach in 17 years,” Sanders said. “It’s just — wow. It’s not good.”
The difference in the game was a touchdown from back-up running back Lee Parrill. With starter Dylan Holcomb out of the game with a sprained knee and fellow back Cain Smith banged up as well, Parrill took his share of carries in the fourth quarter.
The senior pounded a ball in for a score from two yards out after his team converted on a fourth-down attempt near midfield earlier in the drive. The play before the fourth down, Holcomb left the game. With the trainers tending to the go-to back, Parrill knew the running game was on his shoulders.
“I just wanted to get going and see if I could step up for the team,” said Parrill, who was weighed down by injuries Friday as well. Not even the game-winning touchdown could numb his pain from a separated shoulder and an eye swollen shut from a stray elbow.
“I’m feeling it; it hurt the whole game,” Parrill said, a sliver of iris peering out from the pink-and-purple tissue surrounding his left eye.
Milwaukie had its chance to take a lead at the end of the third quarter. Inside Pendleton’s red zone, the Mustangs missed a 25-yard field goal that would have given them a 15-12 lead.
Pendleton quarterback Connor Johnson did his best to make up for a hurting running game, throwing for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Milwaukie’s quarterback Middleton accounted for most of the Mustangs’ offense, throwing for 111 yards and a score while rushing for another 81.
After a season of little injury loss, Sanders’ squad was a parade of limpers and athletic-tape mummies after the match with Milwaukie. The win moves Pendleton into the Round of 16, but the Bucks will need to play better against their next opponent if they expect to hit the quarterfinals, Sanders said.
“We’ve gonna have a lot of kids getting snaps on Monday that haven’t had varsity snaps all year, so yeah I’m nervous,” he said.
The Bucks will know their next matchup this weekend based on the OSAA state power rankings.