JUNCTION CITY — Philomath needed to shift momentum back to its sideline.
Trailing by a touchdown at Junction City in Friday night’s season opener, the Warriors created the jolt they needed when junior Issiah Blackburn, senior Brody Hiner and junior Josiah Gunn met in the end zone to sack Tigers quarterback Riley Sangermano.
The official signaled safety and Philomath’s defense had scored the season’s first points. It turned out to be the difference in the Warriors’ 15-13 victory.
“It was a weakside blitz; I just ran it hard,” said Blackburn, who appeared to be the first player to reach Sangermano coming in from the left side. “I’ve been running it hard all week in practice. … That was just something I came out expecting to do and I was going to get it done.”
Those types of words must’ve been on the minds of several Philomath players in a game that went down to the wire. The Warriors had opportunities to pull away in the second half only to get knocked to their knees by a penalty, turnover or a questionable call.
Coach Tony Matta was pleased to see his players work through the adversity.
“Just to see them battle and there were some calls that could’ve gone the other way here and there and it made it a tougher game, and we also didn’t help ourselves in some instances, but they battled back and that’s important to us,” Matta said. “We’ve got a ways to go but they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the potential that they have and how they can battle that adversity and come out on top.”
Adversity surfaced on the first series in this one. Philomath took the opening kickoff and effectively moved the ball downfield with a mix of runs and passes. On the game’s fifth play, PHS quarterback Michael Lundy hit Logan Hannigan-Downs on a 34-yard strike to the end zone. But a holding penalty wiped out the play.
“I didn’t really see it,” Lundy said about the pass. “It’s just one of those things where it’s a big play and it’s about how are you going to respond to that? It took us a minute but we picked it back up.”
The Warriors did move the chains on a third-and-15 when Lundy again found Hannigan-Downs. But the drive ended up stalling at the 9-yard line.
Late in the first quarter, Junction City’s Estifanos Gerdes picked off Lundy to give the Tigers possession near midfield. On the very next play, Sangermano hit Gerdes on a 49-yard touchdown.
Philomath cut the deficit to 7-2 with the safety at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter. The Warriors later in the quarter caught a break when Junction City fumbled and Blackburn fell on the ball.
Senior Colby Roe then took over by getting his hands on the ball nine times in a 10-play drive to the end zone. Roe scored on a 7-yard run on third down.
Based on the halftime statistics, it appeared Philomath was in control with an edge in total yards at 184 to 77. The Warriors defense had limited the Tigers to just two first downs and 15 yards rushing.
Turnovers became an issue for both teams in the second half but the Tigers did turn a takeaway into points early in the third. Chase Emanuel fell on a fumble at the 20-yard line and Junction City reached the end zone in two plays, Sangermano scrambling to his left for an 11-yard TD.
“We gave up one big play and they scored the other one on a short field after a fumble,” Matta said about his defense. “We knew that screen was coming, we talked about it all week; that’s their best play. They just happened to run it after I stunted the two backers on that side to get pressure.”
Down 13-8, the Warriors responded on their next possession to find paydirt on a seven-play drive that covered 61 yards. The key play came on a 25-yard diving catch by senior Dylan Bennett that put the ball at the 1-yard line. Blackburn punched it into the end zone on the next play and Hannigan-Downs followed with a PAT kick that appeared to sail into the parking lot.
Blackburn went down in the end zone on the TD.
“I just kinda did a cut and they hit hard,” Blackburn said, who battled cramping in his legs the rest of the way. “Our great trainers, they got me ready to go and I was back in the game pretty good.”
In the fourth quarter, Philomath ate up over six minutes of game clock on a 10-play drive that featured mostly running plays. On third-and-10 from the 31, Lundy connected with Ty May over the middle but the ball was fumbled at the 5 and Junction City recovered in the end zone.
Junction City tried to make something happen through the air but Philomath’s defense came through. Bennett, in particular, had a good finish with a few knock-downs and near interception.
Lundy said it meant a lot for the team to come through in the fourth.
“It shows that all of our guys want to win and we actually want to make it to November and be practicing for the playoffs,” Lundy said. “But we definitely need to focus on the small things and if we all show up, it should be pretty solid going forward.”
Lundy sealed Junction City’s fate with an interception with 39 seconds remaining.
“We were sort of unsure going into this game — what it was going to look like and how our line was going to hold up,” Lundy said. “I think it was a big motivator for our team to push through even with all of the controversy near the end of the game. We had some miscues near the beginning of the game but it was nice that our guys all worked hard and pushed through it.”
Roe ended up with 135 yards rushing on 27 carries and also caught three balls for 29 yards. Lundy threw for 140 yards by competing 9 of 21 passes. As a team, the Warriors had 307 total yards to Junction City’s 208.
Philomath (1-0) will play its home opener this coming Friday against Siuslaw.
Philomath 15, Junction City 13
Friday at Junction City
PHILOMATH (1-0) 0 8 7 0 — 15
JUNCTION CITY (0-1) 7 0 6 0 — 13
JC: Estifanos Gerdes 49 pass from Riley Sangermano (Gerdes kick), 0:26
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PHS: Safety, Issiah Blackburn, Josiah Gunn, Brody Hiner tackled quarterback in end zone, 7:23
PHS: Colby Roe 7 run (run failed), 0:39
JC: Sangermano 11 run (kick failed), 7:50
PHS: Blackburn 1 run (Hannigan-Downs kick), 4:37
First Downs 14 12
3rd down efficiency 7-15 1-8
4th down efficiency 2-5 1-3
Total Yards 307 208
Passing 140 175
Comp-Att-Int 9-21-1 17-31-2
Yards per pass 6.7 5.6
Rushing 167 33
Rushing attempts 42 17
Yards per rush 4.0 1.9
All-Purpose Yards 399 256
Punt returns 1-9 0-0
Kickoff returns 4-83 3-48
Interceptions returns 2-0 1-0
Penalties 11-90 6-40
Offensive 5-40 3-15
Defensive 4-30 2-20
Special teams 2-20 1-5
Turnovers 3 3
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-1
Interceptions thrown 1 2
Sacked-yards lost 0-0 2-8
Punts 3-45.3 3-39.0
Possession 27:16 20:44
First half 13:44 10:16
Second half 13:32 10:28
RUSHING — Philomath, Colby Roe 27-135, Michael Lundy 9-20, Issiah Blackburn 4-14, David Griffith 1-(-1), Caleb Jensen 1-(-1). Junction City, Tanner Gibson 9-17, Donovan Vogt 3-11, Riley Sangermano 4-6, Hunter McCormack 1-(-1).
PASSING — Philomath, Michael Lundy 9-21-1-140. Junction City, Riley Sangermano 16-30-2-174, Tanner Gibson 1-1-0-1.
RECEIVING — Philomath, Colby Roe 3-29, Brennan Provance 1-29, Ty May 1-26, Logan Hannigan-Downs 1-25, Dylan Bennett 1-25, Jace Carrera 1-5, Jake Williams 1-1. Junction City, Estifanos Gerdes 6-87, Hunter McCormack 4-31, Tanner Gibson 3-15, Nick White 2-29, Chase Emanuel 1-7, Parker Glazier 1-4.