Grant hands Warriors an eye-opening loss
Aloha leads 20-10 in the second quarter before Grant rolls to a 51-27 non-league victory
PORTLAND - Upset.
Whatever name you give it, Aloha's 51-27 loss at Grant on Friday sent shockwaves across the landscape of Oregon High School football. The second-ranked defending state-champion Warriors turned the ball over five times, saw star tailback Thomas Tyner held in check, suffered from a huge game by Grant quarterback Paris Penn, and saw their 14-game winning streak come to an end at Grant High School.
The win dropped Aloha's non-league record to 2-1 while Grant improved to 2-1.
'They just outworked us. They just outassignmented us. They were the better team tonight,' said Aloha senior running back Ryan Russo, who had two catches for 47 yards and one touchdown.
'They're a really good football team. They've got really good athletes, and we just didn't do so good,' added Aloha junior lineman Michael Kluge.
Despite the final score, things were definitely going Aloha's way early in the game. After Grant notched an early field goal - a 22-yarder by Julian Hanlon-Austin - on its first series, the Warriors came back with two quick touchdowns to lead 13-3.
The first of those came when Aloha senior linebacker Lenana Meekisho forced Grant running back LJ Sly-Cain to fumble and Bryson Sullivan scooped up the ball and raced 32 yards to score with 6 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the first quarter. Meekisho's extra point missed but Aloha led 6-3.
The Warriors' offense was back in business four plays later, taking over at its own 34-yard line following a Grant punt. On the ensuing drive, quarterback Cory Sinner completed three straight passes for 23 yards, scrambled twice for 31 yards, then handed off to Tyner for a 5-yard TD run that made it 13-3 with 18 seconds left in the opening quarter.
But Grant scored on each of its next five possessions to take complete control of the game. First, the Generals got a 9-yard Bryant Peek Jr. run early in the second quarter to move within 13-10. Next, After Aloha got a 31-yard Sinner-to-Russo scoring pass, Grant answered with a 5-yard Sly-Cain TD run to make it 20-17 with 2:18 to go before the half.
Grant wasn't done with its first-half festivities yet, either. After forcing an Aloha punt and taking over again at the Warrior 44-yard line with 42 seconds to go, Penn threw a 10-yard pass to Jonathan Haley, Aloha gave up 15 yards on a penalty, Penn hit Graves for 15 more, and two plays later, Penn took a keeper around right end to score and make it 24-20 for the Generals with seven seconds left before the half.
Things did not change in the second half either. Russo fumbled away the second-half kickoff, Sly-Cain recovered at the Aloha 17, and on first down, Penn went over the left side for a 17-yard score.
Aloha tried to stay close, getting a 57-yard kick return from Russo, a 25-yard Sinner run to the Grant 1, and then a Ben Saechin dive that kept the Warriors within 30-27 with 9:33 to go in the quarter.
But Grant just kept scoring, getting back into the end zone after just two plays on the ensuing possession, the big play there Penn's completion over the middle to Graves for a tackle-breaking 78-yard score and a 37-27 advantage.
'We're a way better tackling team than we showed tonight,' Russo said. 'We just need to have better practices. We'll get on it real quick.'
Thus far, Aloha had matched the Generals almost score-for-score, but the Warriors' turnovers finally began to catch up with them in the fourth. There, the Warriors fumbled the ball away on each of their first two possessions, then threw an interception on the third.
The second of those fumbles set the table for an 8-yard Peek Jr. TD run, and Daniel Halverson added the icing on the Generals' cake when he picked off a Sinner pass and raced 32 yards to score inside the game's final three minutes.
'For sure we're going to remember what they said in the fourth quarter when they said 'It's all over,'' Kluge said. 'We'll never forget that. Just like when Tualatin did it - we'll never forget that.'
For the game, Penn carried 17 times for 92 yards and two TDs, and also completed 13-of-19 passes for 288 yards and another score. Graves led Grant receivers with seven catches for 187 yards and a TD.
Grant also held Tyner to 16 yards and one TD on 13 carries, though he did catch two passes for 110 yards. Sinner completed 11-of-16 passes for 265 yards, one TD and one interception.
On Friday: Aloha hosts Lakeridge at 7:30 p.m.
To see a complete photo gallery from this game, go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.