Pendleton’s historic season ended with a 51-30 loss to Thurston in the Class 5A football semifinals Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium, and while tears rolled down the players’ faces in the cold wind, there was still a sense of accomplishment in the post-game huddle.
“This is the furthest the program has been in 41 years,” Buckaroos head coach Erik Davis said. “The kids can hold their head high. Obviously, we’d love to play next week, but it’s not in the cards. I’m just so happy for these kids.”
The last time Pendleton played in a state semifinal was in 1977, a 13-7 loss to Medford in Class 3A, the highest classification at the time.
The Colts, the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, came into the semifinals riding high off a 49-48 upset over No. 2 Churchill, and rather than having an emotional hangover, they rumbled.
Running back Wesley Kommer rushed for 150 yards on 16 carries and a pair of scores to help anchor an offense that tallied 401 total yards. All of Kommer’s yards came in the first half, and Pendleton just didn’t have an answer for him.
“We’ve been used to being the more physical team, and I’ll tip my hat to those guys,” Davis said. “They physically manhandled us across the board.”
Thurston held Pendleton to minus-5 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Pendleton was forced to go to the air more than it would have liked early on.
“Thurston stacked the box and shut down our run game,” Pendleton quarterback Trent Sorey said. “We had to go to the air, and in the first half, it just wasn’t clicking.”
Three Pendleton turnovers, all interceptions, resulted in two Thurston touchdowns. The Colts scored on six of nine first-half possessions to run up a 37-0 lead at the break, then tacked on touchdowns their first two possessions of the third quarter to enact the 45-point running clock.
The Bucks, however, scored on four of their five drives in the second half. Sorey hit Blake Davis for a 70-yard touchdown the first play of the third quarter, and that was a tandem that worked for the Bucks all night.
Davis ended with 225 yards on nine catches with three touchdowns, including 62- and 12-yard scores in the fourth quarter. Aiden Patterson scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter, and Sorey ended the night 16-for-32 passing with 327 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Sorey-to-Davis connection was a bright spot for the Bucks, and with 15 other seniors playing their last game in Buckaroo green and gold, coach Davis was glad to see the game end on a bit of an upturn.
“Trent and Blake hooked up a tonight, and I’m glad they were able to finish out their high school careers like that,” he said. “I’m happy for all of the seniors, they are kids I truly care about.”
Holding back tears, Sorey said the thing he’ll remember most about being a Buckaroo is something athletics provides all participants — a sense of family and belonging.
“It’s the family we built. Every time we say ‘Bucks on three, family on six,’ every one of those guys means it,” Sorey said. “We will be connected for the rest of our lives.”
Walker Camp finished with 89 yards on four receptions for the Bucks, and Beau Skinner had eight tackles, three for a loss with a quarterback sack. Camp chipped in seven tackles, and Shawn Yeager had two tackles for loss and a sack.
Thurston had 18 first downs to Pendleton’s 13 and outgained the Bucks 401-327. Thurston was 4-for-9 on third downs and averaged 8.2 yards per play. Quarterback Cade Crist threw two touchdowns on 9-of-16 passing for 127 yards. Caleb Scott had an 85-yard run for Thurston in the third quarter, and Calvin Royce rushed eight times for 43 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilsonville defeated West Albany 28-7 in the other semifinal game. The Wildcats and Colts face off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium for the 5A state title.
While Sorey wishes he and his guys were suiting up Thanksgiving weekend, he knows this team was special.
“It means more than anything to get this far,” Sorey said. “It’s pretty cool. Since the seventh grade, when we were winning games by a lot, we knew that we had something. We knew needed to bust our asses to get here and we gave it all we had.”