HILLSBORO — It had been 58 years since Stanfield had played in state championship football game, and soon it’ll be 59.
The Kennedy Trojans used a brutal rushing attack and an opportunistic defense to beat the Tiger 34-20 Saturday night in an OSAA Class 2A football semifinal at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
“That was a great game,” Stanfield first-year head coach Davy Salas said. “We gave them everything we had. The mistakes just killed us tonight.”
Those mistakes cost Stanfield dearly.
After quarterback Brett Traeger hit Jack Suing for a 17-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-20 lead midway through the third quarter. Thyler Monkus, the normally sure-handed junior running back, fumbled the kickoff and it was recovered by Kennedy. The Trojans couldn’t score, but the ensuing drive took four minutes off the clock and forced Stanfield to start deep in its own end after a turnover on downs.
Stanfield’s first glaring mistake cost the Tigers points, momentum, and a one-point halftime deficit.
Kennedy got the ball with 20 seconds left in the second quarter at its own 32, and in two plays was already at the Stanfield 36. Bishop Mitchell ran for eight yards on first down, but fumbled into the awaiting arms of a teammate. Kennedy got a first down on the play. Then Traeger hit Suing for 22 yards to set up the Trojans’ final first-half gasp with six seconds left.
Mitchell ran a wheel route up the far sideline, and Stanfield read it perfectly. Cornerback Monkus was stride-for-stride with the speedy Mitchell, and safety Justin Keeney came over the top to try to jump the route. But instead, Keeney and Monkus ran into each other and the ball fell right into Mitchell’s arms. He trotted into the end zone and Kennedy’s cheering section went crazy.
Stanfield had just tied Kennedy at 14 on the previous drive when Dylan Grogan muscled in a 1-yard scoring run, then hit Justin Keeney in the corner of the end zone on the two-point conversion to make it 14-all. After Mitchell’s touchdown the Trojans would lead the rest of the way.
“In a big game, in the biggest moment of our lives, we made one too many mistakes that we couldn’t come back from,” Salas said. “I told my boys, ‘With two evenly matched teams, it’s not always the best team that wins. It’s the team that makes the least amount of mistakes.’ Tonight we made too many mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Kennedy’s rushing offense proved to be too much for Stanfield in the end, as well. Behind Mitchell, Traeger and bruising fullback Jacob Lopez, the Trojans compiled 325 rushing yards on 52 carries. Each had more than 100 yards rushing, and no Stanfield Tiger went over the century mark.
Stanfield’s offense, meanwhile, had a difficult time of things in the second half after matching Kennedy step for step. That first half saw just one punt and five touchdowns between the No. 9 Tigers and the No. 4 Trojans.
But turnovers and penalties hurt the Tigers. Aside from Monkus’ fumble that stopped a drive before it started, Stanfield turned the ball over twice more in the second half, one of which resulted directly in a touchdown when Mitchell stepped in front of a hitch route and eased 17 yards into the end zone. That made it 34-20 with 2:08 in the third quarter, and Stanfield could never recover.
Monkus rushed for 87 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, and Grogan finished with 65 yards on 16 carries and two scores. He also passed for 146 yards on 9-of-15 passing and two interceptions.
Stanfield loses just three seniors from a team that went 10-2, finished second in a good Columbia Basin Conference and won two road playoff games, one over the top seed in the tournament.
Salas is expecting “special” things in his second year at the helm in Stanfield. “The fuel should be that we have our team back, that we have our core team back,” Salas said. “We only lost three seniors. I’m glad I got to coach them, but we’ll be back next year.”
Kennedy 34, Stanfield 20
STAN (10-2) 6 8 6 0 — 20
KENN (11-1) 7 14 13 0 — 34
Kennedy — B. Traeger 1-yard run (Extra Point Good), 9:05
Stanfield — D. Grogan 11-yard run (Extra Point Failed), 4:37
Kennedy — J. Lopez 1-yard run (Extra Point Good), 3:35
Stanfield — D. Grogan 1-yard run (J. Keeney pass from D. Grogan), 0:29
Kennedy — B. Mitchell 36-yard pass from B. Traeger (Extra POint Good), 0:00
Stanfield — T. Monkus 1-yard run (Extra Point Blocked), 10:39
Kennedy — J. Suing 18-yard pass from B. Traeger (Extra Point Good), 7:43
Kennedy — B. Mitchell 17-yard interception return (Extra POint Failed), 2:08
RUSHING — STANFIELD (38-181, 3 TD): T. Monkus 13-87, TD; D. Grogan 16-65, 2 TD; J. Keeney 5-19; M. Blankenship 3-10. KENNEDY (52-325, 2 TD): J. Lopez 23-111, 1 TD; B. Traeger 14-113, TD; B. Mitchell 15-108.
PASSING — STANFIELD (9-15-2, 146 yards): D. Grogan 9-15-2, 146. KENNEDY (5-11-1, 102 yards, 2 TD): B. Traeger 5-11-1, 102, 2 TD.
RECEIVING — STANFIELD: T. Monkus 7-100; J. Fitzpatrick 1-33; J. Keeney 1-13. HOME: J. Suing 2-40, TD; O. Seiler 2-26; B. Mitchell 1-36 TD.
Penalty — STANFIELD: 5-32. KENNEDY: 7-59.