In a back-and-forth game marred by a controversial call, the Roosevelt Roughriders defeated the visiting Estacada Rangers 18-15 on Friday night to advance into the 16-team Class 4A state playoffs.
Roosevelt (7-3) will play at La Salle next Friday. Those teams met in the first week of the season, with La Salle winning at Roosevelt 62-40. The Falcons went on to win the Tri-Valley Conference and beat Yamhill-Carlton 56-20 Friday in another play-in game.
With the game starting under skies full of rain and hail, both teams got off to slow starts offensively, with neither team securing a first down on its first drive.
The Rangers dug a hole on their first drive when quarterback Willie Blackenship, making his first career start, fumbled backward on third-and-10. Estacada seemed to get bailed out, though, when a Roosevelt player was flagged for a late hit on the play. But the referees marched off the 15 yards against Estacada, and the Rangers were forced to punt.
On their ensuing possession, the Roughriders moved quickly downfield and then running back Isiah Jones took the ball into the end zone from 29 yards to get Roosevelt on the board. After the extra point was blocked, the score stood at 6-0 Roosevelt.
Blackenship was hurt on the Rangers' next possession, and the Rangers turned to Ryan Vauthier to call the snaps on their second drive.
Looking to respond, the Rangers played the type of ground-and-pound football they are known for, running up the middle play after play.
Facing a fourth-and-3 from the Roosevelt 36-yard line, Estacada handed the ball off to running back T. Jay Barber, who burst up the middle for seven yards to keep the drive alive.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, it didn't matter, as the Roughriders forced a fumble on the next play and recovered it on their 30.
With the weather clearing, Roosevelt looked poised to score again as its offense marched into Estacada territory.
Facing a third-and-one from the Estacada 35, the Roughriders were stopped for no gain on back-to-back running plays and the Rangers took over on downs.
After both teams were forced to punt, Estacada began its fourth drive of the game, this time beginning in Roughrider territory.
This drive, the Rangers would not be denied.
After a series of small gains kept the chains moving offensively, the Rangers finally broke into the end zone, as running back Marty Garcialazo surged up the middle from five yards out to give Estacada a 7-6 lead just before halftime.
That momentum carried over in the second half, as the Rangers took the ball and continued to by right at the Roosevelt defense.
After a 30-yard run from running back Tyson Settle gave the Rangers first-and-goal from the 4, Barber scored two plays later. An offside penalty moved the extra-point try closer to the goal line, and the Rangers opted to go for two. Barber got it, which put the score at 15-6 with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
Then things got interesting.
Attempting to catch the Roughriders off guard, the Rangers attempted an onside kick up the middle. The ball was buried under pile of players from both teams. Seconds later, a Rangers player emerged from the pile holding the ball. However, after a conference with the other officials, the referee ruled that Roosevelt had recovered.
'This was the worst refereeing crew I have ever seen in 15 years of coaching,' Rangers coach Brigham Baker said. 'But we can't point our finger at that alone.'
That call turned out to be just the break the Roughriders needed.
After quarterback Juan Montoya completed a big 13-yard pass on third-and-6, Montoya found receiver Antonio Bella for a 34-yard touchdown pass over the top of the defense. The two-point conversion was no good, and Estacada still led 15-12.
On the ensuing kickoff, Estacada returned the ball almost to midfield but fumbled. After a minor scrum, the Roughriders came out of the pile with the ball at the Estacada 40.
With the momentum back on their sideline, Roosevelt marched toward the Ranger goal line behind a series of solid runs from Jones that left them with first-and-goal from the Estacada 8.
After a false-start penalty and a run that yielded a loss of four, the Roughriders were facing third-and-goal from the 14.
On third down, it appeared as if Montoya had found his target in the back of the end zone, however the ball popped out of the receiver's hands, leaving Roosevelt with a long fourth-and-goal.
Having had an extra-point blocked earlier, the Riders opted to go for it, but Montoya's pass hit the turf, and the Rangers took over on downs with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
After grinding nearly eight minutes off the clock, Estacada had moved to the Roughrider 31-yard line, where they were facing a critical fourth down.
Needing four yards to keep the drive alive, the Rangers' run came up two yards short.
Still trailing by three and with just 6:51 left in the game, the Roughriders' offense took the field knowing it needed a touchdown.
After a few broken plays, Roosevelt faced a third-and-11 from its 34.
Needing a big play, the Roughriders got an enormous one.
For the second time of the night, Montoya found Bella behind the defense, and Bella cruised into the end zone for the go-ahead 66-yard touchdown. After another failed two-point conversion, the score stood at 18-15 Roosevelt with 5:24 remaining.
After couple of first downs, a false-start penalty against the Rangers left them facing first-and-15 from their 40. Back-to-back plays went for no gain, and then Barber gained six yards, leaving them with fourth-and-9.
After burning their final timeout, the Rangers called just their third pass play of the game, hoping to catch the Roughriders off guard, but the pass didn't find a receiver and the Roughriders took over on downs to win the game.
Estacada finished with 248 total yards, while the Roughriders gained 245.