Rogue River came to Rockaway Beach Friday with a full team, but they weren’t ready for a team of one. The one thing the Chieftains couldn’t prepare for was Max Halverson.
By Brad Mosher firstname.lastname@example.org
The 3A squad from Southern Oregon agreed to change the planned varsity contest from 11-man to 8-man football after injuries cut the Neah-Kah-Nie to only 13 healthy players after the Warrenton game a week earlier.
The injuries also forced the school to drop the remainder of the varsity season and try to cobble together a mixture of 8-man and junior varsity contests.
Both schools only had a few days to convert to their plays to the smaller eight-man teams.
The Neah-Kah-Nie quarterback ran over the visiting Chieftains for eight touchdowns and four two-point conversions Friday in a 62-40 non-league homecoming win.
Halverson started early with a short five-yard run on the second play of the game with 11:25 left in the first quarter. His first play from scrimmage was a 45-yard run. The second was the touchdown.
The lead lasted only four minutes, when Rogue River quarterback Jaden Bliven scored from six yards out. Derek Nelson got the two-point conversion for an 8-6 lead.
That lead didn’t last long either, in spite of a 50-yard run touchdown run by Halverson being wiped off the books by a penalty.
Freshman Tucker Champ turned a first and 20 at the Pirates’ 40-yard line into a first and 10 at the Chieftains’ 37-yard line.
One play later, Halverson scored his second touchdown of the night that gave Neah-Kah-Nie a 12-8 lead with 6:54 left in the quarter.
Rogue River came back with a drive of its own, but a sack by freshman Tristan Bennett forced the Chieftains to try to convert a fourth and eight the Pirates’ 38-yard line.
But Bliven slipped on the wet grass, ending the threat and giving the hosts possession.
Three plays by Halverson put the Pirates in the end zone again on a 30-yard run with 2:29 left in the quarter.
A penalty after score moved the ball back 15 yards on the conversion attempt, but Halverson weaved his way into the end zone.
That built up an 20-8 lead for the Pirates.
After a drive stalled deep in Pirate territory, the Pirates got possession only to lose it on a fumble.
Rogue River’s quarterback scored on an 11-yard run, cutting the lead to 20-16 with the two-point conversion and 9:35 left in the first half.
But it was Halverson scoring again a minute later on a 32-yard run, followed by a two-point conversion to build a 28-16 lead with 8:34 left.
Halverson cut short Rogue River’s attempt to rally with an interception which set up another score.
Then, Halverson would score from the six with 3:33 left to build a 34-16 lead for the Pirates.
Senior Chet Tidwell recovered a fumble on the kickoff, setting up another score. Champ went in from one-yard out with 37 seconds left. Halverson added a two-point conversion to make the score 42-16.
Rogue River made another turnover on the kickoff, losing the ball to Pirate freshman Jack Porter in mid-air. The Pirates ran out the clock to halftime with the 26-point lead.
The Pirates resumed their scoring barrage with Halverson scoring on a 25-yard run and adding the two-point conversion with 7:29 left in the third quarter for a 48-16 lead.
Blivens responded with an 80-yard kickoff return, and added a pass to to Dean Nelson for the conversion, 48-24.
Halverson scored from 26 yards with 5:01 left in the third quarter, giving the hosts a 54-20 lead.
The Chieftains got back on the scoreboard with 10:55 left in the game on a 56-yard pass to Josh Tambellini and a two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 54-32.
Bliven scored again on a 40-yard run with 5:48 left in the game, cutting the lead to 54-40 with the two-point conversion.
Halverson, who was on the sidelines for most the fourth quarter was back at the helm for the Pirates and started with an 11-yard run.
He sprinted into the end zone on a 30-yard run which was more than double the distance. It was a move that even surprised coach Scott Ross. “From our angle, it looked like he was being forced out of bounds (on the far side of the field) and then he came back,” the coach said after the game.”That was quite a run.
“It was a first time for us playing eight-man football,” he added. “It is nice when you have got a weapon like Max. He is really a good athlete and if you give him some open space, he’s hard to tackle. There is so much green out there when they are playing eight-man football that you are just not going to get him.”
The eight-man game really opened the field up for Halverson and he responded with eight touchdowns in just over three quarters of play, the coach said. “He had well over 200 yards rushing,” Ross said.
“He is just a gifted, gifted athlete,” he added. Although the coaches relished the win for their players, they also knew that the cancellation of the varsity schedule would also hurt them this season. There will be no players earning all-league recognition this year, Ross said.
“But he has another year left,” the coach said, referring to Halverson.
The remainder of the schedule this year is not yet finalized, the coach said. “We are still at 13 bodies. We have 12 kids out (of the lineup) and nine were season-ending injuries. So the most we would be able to get back is three players.”
“We are pretty much committed now to a JV schedule or eight-man football, so we have to see what we can do,” Ross explained.
The game Friday also burned up all the quarters the players were allowed by the OSAA, so that means the team will have a week to heal up more. The next game, according to Ross, would be a Monday afternoon JV game.
“Right now, we are just taking it week by week,” he added.