Senior Talanoa Hufanga celebrated his return to action by scoring three times to lead Crescent Valley High to a 42-7 rout of Marist Catholic on Friday in an OSAA 5A first-round playoff game.
Hufanga had receptions of 53 and 24 yards from junior quarterback Sawyer Cleveland, and on a 33-yard interception return. Cleveland threw for 361 yards and three scores and added his own pick-6 late in the third quarter to complete CV’s scoring on a frigid night under a full moon at the Field of Dreams.
The Raiders (9-1) now will face Churchill in Eugene in the 5A quarterfinals, likely next Friday. The Midwestern League-champion Lancers (11-0) thumped Pendleton 42-15 on Friday night in their playoff opener.
Hufanga missed CV’s 21-7 loss to South Albany on Oct. 27, and played sparingly in a victory at Dallas on Oct. 20 because of a sore shoulder. Cleveland and coach Scott Sanders both welcomed his return to full-time action against the Spartans, the Midwestern League’s third-place finisher.
Hufanga had seven receptions for 155 yards and the aforementioned two touchdowns.
“It’s great to have him back,” Cleveland said. “He’s always a great threat to have, just a great offensive player.
“He’s kind of wild out there. He just catches everything.”
Added Sanders: “Talanoa picks the whole team up. He’s like a comfort blanket for some of us. We feel more comfortable with him out there, we can be more aggressive defensively with him backing us up.
“We coaches know we can bring some different pressures knowing we have a little better secondary with him back there.”
Senior Connor Spevacek had 10 tackles and a sack, junior Bubba Wa’a had seven tackles and a tackle for loss and senior Kelton Orth had six tackles for CV. The starting defense did not allow a touchdown and forced four turnovers.
It was CV’s second win over the Spartans (5-5) this season. CV scored the final 36 points in a 42-27 comeback victory at Marist on Sept. 1 on opening night; the Raiders scored 78 unanswered points in the two games before Marist broke the shutout in the fourth quarter.
“I was most pleased that we just bouncing back from last week,” Sanders said. “We had a good week of practice, we fought hard. They knew they wanted to get to the next round, and to win this whole thing.
“We didn’t have a hangover from the South Albany loss, and just played hard. We worked on being physical up from with our front seven, and worked a little more on playing man on the back side so we could get pressure on the quarterback.
“Knowing their big horse (QB Reow Jackson) was out, and we got our big horse back (Hufanga), we knew we could be physical and leave 1-on-1 matchups in the secondary.”
Big plays in the passing game enabled CV to take a 21-0 halftime advantage. Cleveland had eight completions of 10 or more yards and threw for 270 yards in the first half.
“Our plan usually is to come out throwing and it just really worked out great tonight,” he said.
Cleveland’s 47-yard scoring strike to Knight on a crossing route sent CV ahead 7-0 with 6:46 left in the first quarter. A 55-yard Cleveland-to-Hufanga combination positioned the Raiders for Cam Sanders’ 1-yard TD plunge that doubled the spread to 14-0 at 3:23.
Cleveland and Hufanga teamed up again on a 24-yard TD connection at 6:23 of the second quarter for a 21-0 advantage. Cleveland also had a 55-yard completion to Knight on CV’s final possession but that drive fizzled at the Marist 7-yard line with 22 seconds remaining on a fourth-down incompletion after CV eschewed a possible 24-yard field goal attempt.