Sunset wins its opener 21-14, beating Gresham for the third time in a year
GRESHAM - Sunset quarterback Dane Poorman threw three touchdown passes Friday night, the last of those giving the Apollos a 21-14 lead with five minutes on the clock.
But it was up to the Sunset defense to finish the job.
Gresham put together a late drive, moving inside the Apollo 10-yard line when halfback Devauntae Hoffman spun off a hit in the backfield and scrambled ahead to move the chains on third down. The run-oriented Gophers mixed things up near the goal line and tried back-to-back passing plays, but both fell incomplete and forced a Gresham timeout.
After the break, the Gophers' intentions were obvious. Gresham sent in its power package with not a single receiver on the field. The ball was snapped, and Hoffman cut across the field and took the handoff.
He had nowhere to go.
Sunset linebacker Spencer Hall shredded the Gophers' blocking, drove deep into the backfield and put up a dead-end sign that forced Hoffman to turn back. He got only a few steps before the Apollos' Bruce Jones pulled him down for an 8-yard loss.
Needing a touchdown, Gresham was forced to go for it on fourth down from the 15-yard line. Sophomore QB Devon Shields fired a pass over the right side, but Sunset's Zachary Labianco hit the receiver just as the ball arrived to break up the play just short of the goal line and seal Sunset's season-opening win at Gresham High School.
'It's hard to simulate a game in practice and sometimes it takes awhile to make the needed adjustments,' Sunset coach Faustin Ri-ley said. 'But in the second half, we started to get a feel for what they were doing and our coaches came up with some good calls.'
Gresham appeared to have scored earlier in that final drive when it brought out a trick play that ended up with Hunter Busse get-ting behind the defense for an easy touchdown catch. But the 42-yard reception was wiped away by a penalty flag, as a Gresham lineman moved downfield too soon.
Still, Gresham wasn't quite done yet. The Gopher 'D' forced a three-and-out that gave Gresham the ball back on Sunset's side of the 50 with 3:12 on the clock. But the Gophers struggled to move the ball and quickly fell into a long fourth-down attempt. There, Sunset lineman Stephen Hordes chased Shields out of the pocket and his off-balance throw sailed out of bounds to effectively end his team's comeback hopes.
Sunset drained the clock all the way down to :08 before facing a final fourth down of its own. Punter Michael Metter simply needed to boot the ball and the game would be over. His job became more difficult when the snap came high and fast, but at 6-foot-3 he managed to snag the ball above his helmet and get the punt away.
'You just have to stay composed,' Metter said. 'I don't think about all that's going on. I'm out there to have fun.'
The win marked Sunset's third straight victory over the Gophers in the last 12 months. Sunset opened last season with a 38-7 win, and beat Gresham again 48-16 in the Class 6A Play-In round.
'They're a good team and we knew that coming in,' Riley said. 'Last year's scores were lopsided, but the games were not that way.'
Early on in Friday's game, it seemed Gresham might be on its way to a rout after taking a 14-0 first quarter lead. Hoffman broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run, and fullback Marcus Martinez hauled in a one-handed catch on fourth down to add another score.
'First games are weird, you never know what to expect,' Riley said. 'We didn't play well in that first quarter. We didn't do a lot right on offense, and we didn't do a lot right on defense.'
Sunset roared back in the second quarter, though, starting when Poorman fired a high ball into the back corner of the end zone. Apollos' receiver Cole Abdie went over the top of his defender to pull down the catch, dragging his foot in bounds to score the touch-down.
Evan Altorfer set up the scoring chance when he brought down a 34-yard over-the-shoulder grab.
The team's next drive saw another Poorman-to-Adbie connection, this one going for 28 yards to tie the game at the half.
Gresham had a chance to take the lead in the third quarter after moving the ball inside Sunset's 10-yard line, but the drive stalled and the Gophers missed on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Sunset scored the winning touchdown in the final minute of the quarter when Poorman hit Ryan Hendry on a quick 4-yard out pat-tern. Poorman, in his first varsity start, went 16-for-26 for 237 yards and three TDs while suffering one interception.
'He had some good recognition out there and made some good throws,' Riley said.
Sunset's defense shut down Gresham's passing game in the second half, as the Gophers connected on just 2-of-14 attempts for a total of six yards.
Sunset hosts Forest Grove in its next game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.