PILOT ROCK — It may have taken two quarters, but the Rockets finally saw liftoff as a third-quarter rally launched them to a home victory.
The 1A Special District 3’s No. 2 Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii Rockets clawed back from a deficit that lasted nearly three quarters to take down the visiting No. 3 Union Bobcats 36-32 in league play on Friday night.
Junior running back Tyasin Burns set the field alight with 213 rushing yards to aid in the win, and junior quarterback Tanner Corwin put 204 yards in the air to shoot past the Bobcats, who were quick to get on the board, but couldn’t survive the Rockets once they finally came to life.
“We lost our fundamentals in the beginning (of the game),” Pilot Rock head coach Mike Baleztena said. “We were tackling high and forgetting our assignments. We had a talk at halftime. We had to recoup. We got back to fundamental football in the second half.”
Bobcats junior quarterback Jace Phillips took matters into his own hands with three keepers that eventually pushed the ball into the end zone to put Union on the board first in the game’s early minutes.
Rockets senior wide receiver Logan Weinke responded with a receiving touchdown at 7:20. A successful conversion gave them a brief 8-6 advantage, but Phillips had another carry for a touchdown, and later hit senior wide receiver Gannon Carreiro with a pass to put the Bobcats out front at 18-8 with 1:03 left in the quarter.
Burns opened the second quarter with a 55-yard carry that brought the Rockets within two points of catching up at 18-16, but Phillips and senior running back Cameron Dillman connected with a scoring pass that gave the Bobcats a 26-16 at the half.
“We were definitely lackadaisical in the first half,” Weinke said. “We weren’t ready for them (Union).”
Freshman Dylan Abraham cut the deficit to four points with a receiving touchdown on the first play of the third quarter.
“I told (Dylan) that as soon as he scores a touchdown, he’s no longer a freshman,” Baleztena said. “He’s a veteran.”
Freshman wide receiver Aaron Barkley picked up a Union fumble, but the Rockets would not earn any points out of the ensuing possession. But Burns returned to remedy that near the quarter’s end, snagging a touchdown pass from Corwin. Weinke’s successful conversion put the Rockets ahead 30-26.
Dillman had a 47-yard carry to give Union its final lead, but Weinke intercepted the conversion pass to keep the game close. He caught a 28-yard pass on a 4th-down play for the final score of the night, leaving the Rockets out front for good.
“Everyone kept their heads in it,” Weinke said. “It was huge. We came together and finished the game. It’s an adrenaline rush. Playing out here on the field with these guys is an amazing feeling.”
A scoreless final quarter ticked by to keep the Rockets undefeated.
“Union fought hard,” Abraham said. “They were bringing it. They kept pushing until the end. But we play with more heart and spirit than anyone in the state, I think.”
Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii (5-0, 4-0 SD3) travels to the top-ranked Dufur Rangers’ field next Friday.