CLACKAMAS - Despite an early 6-0 lead, the Hermiston Bulldogs allowed 21 points in the second quarter and Clackamas held off a late Bulldog charge for a 21-13 OSAA/US Bank/Les Schwab/Tires 4A state football quarterfinal victory Friday.
The Bulldogs concluded the best season in school history 11-1, capped by the school's first outright IMC football championship and first two playoff wins in school history.
Clackamas (11-1) will play top-ranked Sheldon (12-0) in the semifinals next week for an opportunity to advance to the state championship game. Sheldon downed Beaverton 31-21 Friday in another quarterfinal game.
"We had several problems in the first half, some guys went down with injuries and we dug a hole," said Hermiston head coach Jerry Williams.
Behind a large turnout from the Hermiston faithful, the Bulldogs stopped Clackamas on the first drive of the game and responded with a nine-play drive capped by a Justin Ramirez 12-yard touchdown run with 7:51 remaining in the first quarter.
"I tried to get it done tonight for the seniors, but we made some mistakes," said Ramirez, a sophomore.
Hermiston had all the momentum and on the Cavaliers' ensuing possession James Williams intercepted Dan Downing's pass at the Clackamas 18-yard line. The Bulldogs offense sputtered, setting up a Dean Peters 37-yard field goal attempt that sailed to the right and Hermiston was unable to capitalize on the Williams interception.
Nine seconds into the second quarter Downing found Justin Denmark for a 42-yard touchdown pass and Clackamas added the extra point for a 7-6 lead .
"Hermiston is fast, big and very tough to pass on," Downing said. "We found Justin early and we tried to keep it in the air."
Hermiston put together another nice drive late in the second, but settled for a Peters field goal attempt that was blocked by Jachin Walters, and Clackamas returned the block 24 yards.
Downing took advantage and hit Brian Harding for a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the Cavaliers a 14-6 lead with 3:54 left in the half.
"We were just not working on all cylinders and had some costly turnovers," coach Williams said. "Their quarterback is very good and he made some great plays."
The Bulldogs could not respond, gave the ball back to the Cavaliers and Downey marched the offense down the field, setting up an A.J. Spitulski 2-yard touchdown run that gave Clackamas a 21-6 halftime lead.
"We fought hard, but we just gave up too many points," Hermiston quarterback John Barnett said. "We had our chances, but we just came up short."
The Cavaliers defense stood strong in the third quarter, stopping the Bulldogs on their first drive and then forcing a James Williams fumble late in third that stopped any momentum Hermiston could gain.
"Their defense is very good and fast to the ball, making it very difficult on us," Barnett said.
Hermiston's defense played solid in the second half and stopped Clackamas from building its lead. The Bulldogs went to the ground midway through the fourth and Justin Ramirez found several holes to move the chains. Barnett hit a hobbling Tyson Banker, who sat for a majority of the game due to an ankle injury two weeks ago, for a key 30-yard first-down reception. The Bulldogs punched the ball in the end zone on a Ruben Ramirez 2-yard touchdown run with 6:28 remaining in the fourth.
"I was sitting there watching and I asked coach to let me play," Banker said. "John made a great throw and I just wanted to give this team a spark."
The Bulldogs, down 21-13, gave up some yards to Clackamas, but were able to hold the Cavaliers to a field goal attempt that sailed to the left, giving Hermiston one last chance with 3:08 left in the game.
"We thought we had a good chance with our last possession and I thought we could get even," coach Williams said.
Hermiston was able to gain first downs through a mixture of passes and runs and drove it down to the Clackamas 39-yard line, but on the next play Matt Arronett picked off Barnett's pass, sealing the victory for Clackamas. Downing took several knee downs and the clock ran out on Hermiston's historical season.
"I guess I just didn't put enough on the ball, but those things happen," said Barnett. "It's very disappointing but this has been a great season.
Barnett finished with 120 yards passing and Justin Ramirez finished with a team-high 108 rushing yards to lead the Bulldogs offensively.
"This has been a wonderful group of kids to coach and I will miss these seniors very much," coach Willliams said.
"I will miss playing with Justin and I am very proud of the history we have made this season," Ruben Ramirez said.
"The guys played very hard and we are disappointed, but at the same time we are very proud of what we accomplished," coach Williams said.
Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at email@example.com.