Coming out of halftime with a renewed energy, Philomath took the opening kickoff of the third quarter, made it to the end zone in just three plays and tied the Oregon West Conference's first-place team, Cascade, 14-14.
Appearing at home for the final time this season Thursday night, it seemed fitting that three seniors figured into the touchdown. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, senior Jared Minter caught a 36-yard pass from senior Kenan Conner on a tackle-eligible play.
Minter had been waiting all season for that moment.
"I tried out for tight end at the beginning of the year and coach told me, 'hey, you'll be a better fit at tackle.' And he told me, 'if you actually do play tackle, we want to run a tackle-eligible play,'" Minter said. "I've been pestering him all year about it. And finally for Cascade, we put it in the day before the game. It worked good."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the visiting Cougars landed on their feet and came up with key plays over the rest of the second half to pull out a 28-14 win.
"It was nice catching one from Kenan Conner. It was right where it was supposed to be," Minter said. "Kenan did a great job with all his passing today. Everything was spot on and where it's supposed to be."
The drive started after Cody Chambers, yes, another senior, returned the kickoff to the PHS 32. On first-and-10, Conner connected with Minter to the right side to get the ball to the Cascade 32. On the next play, Conner rushed for 11 yards and another first down.
That's when another senior, Tony Rath, entered the picture. On first-and-10 from the 21, Rath took an option pitch from Conner, took advantage of good blocking and sprinted to the end zone.
"I'm just making sure that if I get the ball, that I'm running to the outside," Rath said. "That play's designed to go to the outside if it's pitched and it was wide open outside. I caught a good block ... on the outside and I was able to just fly into the end zone."
Senior tight end Joey Howell and junior running back Dakota Kantor both threw effective blocks on the play. It was Rath's first touchdown this season in his final career home game.
"I love all these guys," Rath said with a hint of emotion. "This is a great group of guys that I got to play with."
Besides Rath, Conner, Minter, Chambers and Howell, other seniors include Wyatt Krohn, Logan Hansen, Matt Hamilton, Luis Vargas and Teddy Frank.
"I'm extremely blessed that I got to play my last game at Philomath High School with these guys right here," Rath added.
Cascade (5-2 overall, 4-0 Oregon West) took the game's opening kickoff and marched right down the field with 14 straight running plays to take a 7-0 lead, scoring on Quinn Legner's three-yard QB keeper. Philomath (1-6, 0-4) then went three-and-out and it appeared it could be the beginning of a long night for the Warriors.
But Philomath regrouped to put itself in position for a game-long battle. On Cascade's second possession, Minter had a tackle for loss on fourth-and-two to give Philomath the ball.
The Warriors followed with a nine-play drive that despite resulting in no points, served as a confidence-builder that the ball could be moved on the visitor's defense. Cascade went three-and-out on its next possession and Philomath responded with a touchdown.
The drive included conversions on one third down and two fourth downs. In fact, the TD was scored on fourth-and-six when Conner hit Michael Lundy on a 38-yard strike down the right sideline.
"It was pretty nice, it felt good to finally score," Lundy said. "I was about to get stopped at the 1-yard line and that's happened before, so I just reached out and I was able to get it in. He threw it right where it needed to be for me to get around that guy."
Cascade actually helped the cause on the third-down conversion. On a third-and-11 play, Kantor picked up eight yards but officials added another 15 on a personal foul penalty. Conner later converted on fourth-and-one at the Cascade 41, getting two yards to move the chains.
Cascade blocked Rath's extra point attempt, however, and the Cougars were able to hang on to the lead at 7-6.
The visitors then put together a nine-play, 50-yard drive to go up by eight points. Legner, the team's senior QB, ran the ball on all nine plays and scored on a two-yarder.
The end of the first half included a little excitement. Philomath fumbled the ball on the kickoff return but Cascade couldn't do anything against the Warriors' defense. Brody Hiner and Rath teamed up to sack the quarterback on the first play to put the Cougars in an immediate hole. On fourth down with only seconds remaining, a Legner pass fell incomplete and Philomath took over on downs.
With 3 seconds left in the half, Conner connected with Hamilton on a pass play down the left sideline. For a moment, it appeared Hamilton might have enough daylight to make his way to the end zone. He was tackled on the play after 44 yards, but as it turned out, officials flagged him for offensive pass interference.
However, Cascade also had a penalty on the play, its second personal foul of the half, and the Warriors got one more shot since a half cannot end on a defensive penalty. A pass intended for Rath fell incomplete and the two teams finally exited the field to make adjustments for the second 24 minutes.
Philomath opened with that quick TD drive in the third quarter. On the conversion, Conner ran the ball to the right side for two and a 14-14 tie.
Cascade's first drive was a three-and-out with Howell sacking the QB on a third-and-six play. But Philomath had only three more possessions the rest of the game and couldn't keep Cascade out of the end zone.
The Cougars scored later in the third quarter on a 30-yard run by Marcos Reyes, a quick drive that included earlier runs of 31 and 27 yards. Early in the fourth, Cascade went up 28-14 on a 2-yard run by Ethan Coffey.
Philomath's final drive took up the majority of the fourth quarter but resulted in no points. The Warriors ran 13 plays and took the ball from their own 5 to the Cascade 42. A fumble that PHS was able to cover up and a delay of game penalty stalled the effort.
Cascade took over, picked up a first down and ran out the final 2:44 that remained.
"I think we could've beaten them; they're a beatable team," Lundy said. "We just weren't able to convert on things we should've. Our defense could've been better but it's just something work on."
Rath said Cascade just has a pretty good all-around team.
"If we limit those big plays, I think we could've turned it around," Rath said. "They wanted to win just as much as we did ... They just had some big plays that killed us."
Cascade's Legner rushed for 177 yards on 31 carries.
For the Warriors, Conner completed 6-of-14 passes for 84 yards and ran for another 97 yards on 20 carries. Kantor had 45 yards on 12 attempts. Jeremy Alston had two receptions for 12 yards with four others catching a single ball.
Philomath will end the season Oct. 20 with a game at Yamhill-Carlton.
Cascade 28, Philomath 14
Thursday at Philomath
CASCADE (5-2, 4-0) 7 7 7 7 — 28
PHILOMATH (1-6, 0-4) 0 6 8 0 — 14
CHS: Quinn Legner 3 run (Joel Negrete kick), 4:33
PHS: Michael Lundy 38 pass from Kenan Conner (kick blocked), 5:05
CHS: Quinn Legner 2 run (Joel Negrete kick), 1:15
PHS: Tony Rath 21 run (Kenan Conner run), 10:46
CHS: Marcos Reyes 30 run (Joel Negrete kick), 4:24
CHS: Ethan Coffey 2 run (Joel Negrete kick), 8:48
First downs 15 13
Total net yards 312 230
Rushes-yards 47-274 37-146
Passing 38 84
Punt returns 0-0 0-0
Kickoff returns 3-52 4-45
Interceptions ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 5-10-0 6-14-0
Sacked-yards lost 2-15 0-0
Punts 2-36.0 3-31.7
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-1
Penalties-yards 11-82 4-35
Time of possession 26:07 21:53
RUSHING — Cascade, Quinn Legner 31-177, Marcos Reyes 5-63, Ethan Coffey 9-18, Jake Whisman 1-10, Colton Gumc 1-6. Philomath, Kenan Conner 20-97, Dakota Kantor 12-45, Tony Rath 4-16, Joey Howell 1-(-12).
PASSING — Cascade, Quinn Legner 5-10-0-38. Philomath, Kenan Conner 6-14-0-84.
RECEIVING — Cascade, Elijah Nolan 3-25, Jake Whisman 1-8, Trey Harris 1-5. Philomath, Jeremy Alston 2-12, Michael Lundy 1-38, Jared Minter 1-36, Matt Hamilton 1-4, Dakota Kantor 1-(-6).
North Marion 22, Philomath 20
Monday at Aurora
Team notes: Philomath dropped to 2-4 on the season with the close loss early this week to the Huskies. ... The Warriors defeated Newport, 54-0, in an Oct. 2 matchup. ... Against the Cubs, freshman Issiah Blackburn scored four touchdowns with two of those coming on defense. ... Blackburn scored on a pick-6 interception and on a fumble recovery return on defense and had two more on offense from the running back position. ... The JV Warriors end the season Monday at Cascade.