Big plays carry Grant past Cougars, into 6A quarterfinals
Portland State football coach Nigel Burton was at Lincoln High's Mike Walsh Field Friday night to watch three future Vikings on the Grant Generals take on Canby High.
Quarterback Paris Penn, fullback/linebacker Daniel Halverson and receiver Jamarr Graves, who are all committed to PSU, did not disappoint their next coach.
Penn commanded the game behind center and Halverson commanded the game on defense, leading Grant to a 41-14 win in the second round of the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs.
'It was nice seeing (Burton) on the sideline,' Penn said. 'That's the coach we're going to play for for another four years after this. So we wanted to come out and show him what we can do on the field. Not on film, but in real life. Him being here really helped us.'
The Generals (9-2) will play Sheldon in the quarterfinals next week.
Grant's defense put pressure on the Cougars early. On Canby's second drive, the Generals recovered a backward screen pass at their 46-yard line.
The Generals' offense was slow to get going, though. Grant gave back the ball three plays later on a Penn interception.
'We started a little slow in the first half,' Penn said. 'Everything was just kind of mayhem for me tonight.'
Canby (6-5) capitalized on the pick when fullback Brady Thompson ran a 2-yard dive into the end zone to put the Cougars up 6-0.
Penn bounced right back.
In under a minute, he marched the Generals to the 6-yard line. When Grant lined up, Canby forgot to have a man cover Graves on the outside. Penn got the snap and floated a pass to Graves for a TD.
'It was a quick throw out to Jamarr,' Penn said. 'He was WIDE open.
Penn finished 5 of 11 passing for 135 yards, two interceptions and two TDs.
Halverson, who victimized Canby with big hits throughout the night, then recovered a fumbled on the Cougars' 48.
'Everything was from film,' Halverson said, of the Generals' defensive success. 'We studied film hard, and we just knew we had a good game plan going in.'
Halverson's younger brother, Nathan, finished what Daniel started. On the Generals' first play of the series, Nathan Halverson took a pitch on a double reverse, found the corner, picked up a block from Penn and raced 48 yards to the end zone.
'My quarterback got a great block for me,' Nathan Halverson said. 'I cut it off his butt, made a couple defenders miss and got a touchdown.'
On the Generals' next possession, running back Bryant Peek Jr. scored on a 2-yard run up the middle to make the score 21-6.
Peek Jr. wound up with 16 carries for 165 yards.
'I had good blocks from my guy Daniel (Halverson), and it all started with the line,' Peek Jr. said. 'After that, I just made a move and kept going. I told my seniors I wasn't going to let them go home tonight.'
With time running out in the first half, Canby mounted a drive down to the Grant 4 with three seconds left. The Cougars dialed up a pass. Generals defensive back Cordell Harris was waiting for it.
Harris jumped the route, picked off the ball and took it back 101 yards for a touchdown that sent the teams into halftime with Grant up 28-6.
'Their guy went straight out into the flat,' Harris said. 'Their quarterback was eyeing him the whole time. I was able to take a peek back at the quarterback, jump it, let my lead blockers get out in front of me and take it to the house.'
The Generals faltered on the first drive of the second half. Penn threw another interception to Noah Kyllo, who took the pick back 25 yards to bring the score to 28-14.
Nathan Halverson answered immediately, though. He fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 7, went up the left sideline and sprinted 97 yards for a touchdown. With that, Grant led 34-14.
'The return was a little shocking,' Nathan Halverson said. 'I didn't think they were going to kick it to me because they were kicking it to the opposite side the whole game. They kicked it over my head. I had to run back about 10 or 15 yards. I just took it down the sideline, made it a footrace.'
Penn again bounced back from his interception. On the Generals' next offensive series, he found Harris open downfield. Harris made a juggling catch after the Canby safety tried to knock down the pass. After pulling in the ball, Harris went 64 yards for a touchdown.
'That safety was a little late getting over there,' Harris said. 'I was able to beat him to the outside. He got a hand on the ball, but I was able to juggle it, make the catch and just walk in there.'
The competition will get much more difficult for the Generals next week against No. 1 Sheldon (10-0), which rolled over visiting Lincoln 45-21 on Friday night.
Penn likes the Generals' chances. Sweating in the cold after the final whistle, he looked ready for the game to be played right away.
'I feel good about it, with the way our team is playing right now,' Penn said. 'Hopefully we can catch some film and let's get it.'