HILLSBORO — Weston-McEwen has experienced a dream season this fall but the Loggers from Scio will be revving their chainsaws this weekend trying to jolt the TigerScots from their peaceful sleep. Weston-McEwen (11-0) will look to topple the Class 2A giant on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. when the teams meet at Hillsboro Stadium in the semifinals of the state playoffs.
In the realm of hurdles that Weston-McEwen has bounded past this season, Scio (11-1) is more like a mountain — massive and molded from years of football prominence — but with a better running game. The top-seeded Loggers hold a 39-1 record over the last three seasons while winning the previous two state championships.
“The way I look at it, (Scio) is a program that’s on the map and we are now on the map with them,” TigerScots head coach Kenzie Hansell said. “They’ve earned the right to be on the map and now so have we.”
Scio brings a heavily one-sided offensive attack into the game, which Loggers head coach Jim Mask called a major clash of football styles. The Loggers offense goes to the air less often than a pride of ostriches and revolves around the four-legged backfield of senior Sean Heil and junior Daniel Harper. Each has 21 touchdowns while carrying the ball and each has rushed for more than 1,800 yards on the season. The ground attack averages well north of 400 yards per game.
With that kind of running game, the Scio offensive line rarely shifts into pass-block mode. Quarterback Hunter Reger has attempted only 16 passes all season. The team threw once last week in a 50-0 drubbing of Lost River, a half-back pass was intercepted.
“We always make the joke that (Reger) is just another pulling guard to block for the running game,” Mask said.
Weston-McEwen’s playbook is more balanced and marked with both pass and run plays. Senior quarterback Dallas Reich leads the offense with 18 touchdowns on the fly and another nine rushing the ball.
But the outcome of this game hinges more on Weston-McEwen’s vaunted defense, said junior defender Tyler Peterson. The ’Scots have allowed opponents to reach the end zone fewer than once per game while holding scoring to just 62 points on the year.
“We know we can get them on offense,” said Peterson, who also plays running back. “Our defense is really going to have to stay solid. We’re going to have to come out mean because they just want to chip away.”
Scio is a one-weapon team, he said, albeit with a seriously impressive one weapon. The key to victory for Weston-McEwen is slowing down the Scio run, not necessarily stopping it. Nobody can hault the rush altogether but with enough containment, the Scio offense falls apart.
No team has forced the Loggers to rely on their passing game to win this year, but the single loss the team suffered came when they were held to 141 yards rushing. That was an opening day defeat from Dayton, an 11-0 Class 3A power that ranks second in the state and is playing its own semifinal playoff game on Saturday.
The trip to Hillsboro is three times longer for the TigerScots than it is for Scio, but the Eastern Oregon team is excited to play inside the 7,600-capacity Hillsboro Stadium, lineman KJ White said. The stadium and its artificial turf are the spoils of a playoff run, a major improvement in field conditions that the team has faced so far after ankle-deep mud drowned cleats during the TigerScots 20-6 quarterfinal victory at Kennedy.
“We want to represent our community and everything we’ve been building but I don’t think any of us have ever played in a real stadium before,” said White, a junior. It will have a much different feel than their home field in Athena, which shares a corner of its north end zone with a baseball infield, he added.
The victor of Saturday’s tussle will find the winner of the Oakland-Gold Beach matchup waiting for them in the championship game on Saturday, Dec. 23. Weston-McEwen hasn’t reached the state finals since it lost there in 1996, a year in which the team beat Scio 28-23 in the semifinals.