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Hawks come so close in quarterfinal setback

Football: Horizon Christian is edged 21-18 by Cascade Christian

CENTRAL POINT - The Horizon Christian High School football team saw its best-ever season come to a close Saturday with a 21-18 loss to Cascade Christian in a Class 3A state playoff quarterfinal game played at Crater High School's Dutch Meyer Field.

With the setback, Horizon Christian, the No. 2 team out of the West Valley League, finished its season with a final overall record of 8-3. Cascade Christian, the Southern Cascade Conference champion, improved to 10-2 with the victory. The Challengers also advance to play Santiam Christian in the semifinal round of the state playoffs. That game will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cottage Grove High School.

Turnovers played a key role in last Saturday's competitive quarter-final contest between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. Horizon turned the ball over three times in the first half as Cascade built a 14-3 lead, but the Challengers turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter as the Hawks mounted a comeback.

Horizon took the opening drive 48 yards in 10 plays before stalling on the Cascade 26-yard line. But the Hawks didn't come away empty, as junior Taylor Grimmett kicked a 43-yard field goal to give the Hawks a 3-0 edge.

The lead was short-lived how-ever, as Cascade junior running back Brandon Williams scored on a 34-yard run on Cascade's ensuing possession, giving the Challengers a 7-3 lead with 6 minutes and 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

The remainder of the first half, the Hawks moved the ball well but had their drives cut short by penal-ties and turnovers. Following an interception in Horizon territory, Williams scored his second touchdown on a 19-yard run with 8:18 left in the half to extend the Cascade lead to 14-3.

With an 11-point lead going into the second half, the Challengers stuck to the ground to control the ball and use up clock. Cascade used nearly six minutes with an 11-play drive before the Hawks stopped the home team on downs at the Horizon 34. Horizon moved into Cascade territory quickly, but an offensive pass interference call near the goal line pushed the Hawks back near midfield and they had to punt.

Cascade then went on another long drive, marching 75 yards and consuming seven minutes of the third and fourth quarters. Cascade running back Jordan Girardot scored his team's final touchdown on an 8-yard run, extending the ball over his head to break the plane. The ball came loose on the play with Horizon recovering in the end zone, but the official ruled the ball broke the plane before the fumble.

Down 21-3 with just over eight minutes left in the game, Horizon started at its 17-yard line, desper-ately needing a score. With a combination of junior quarterback Wyatt Houston runs and passes to three different receivers, the Hawks moved past midfield. The drive ended when Cascade sacked Houston on a fourth-down scramble near midfield. Cascade was called for a late hit out of bounds on the play, but since the ball was already dead, Cascade took over on downs at their own 31 with 4:04 left.

The excitement was far from over, however. Cascade's Girardot fumbled the handoff on the next snap and senior Seth Cardoza re-covered for the Hawks. Houston then hit Zack Selland on a fade route for a 28-yard touchdown on the next play, cutting the Cascade lead to 21-10 with 4:00 left in the contest.

Following the kickoff, the turnover bug hit again as Cascade's Williams coughed it up and Hawk seniors Ryan Sederstrom and David Nosacks pounced on the loose ball at the Cascade 40-yard line. After a sack and grounding call put Horizon at its own 48, Houston hit Selland over the middle for a 52-yard touchdown.

With Cascade's lead at five points, Horizon went for two and Houston hit senior Jordan Pearson in the flat for the conversion, cut-ting the lead to three points at 21-18 with 2:52 remaining. Cascade was able to recover the ensuing onside kick however, and the Challengers picked up two more first downs to run out the clock and seal the win.

Wyatt Houston completed 15 of 24 for 243 passes yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and he also led the Hawks with 54 yards rushing on 15 carries. Zack Selland led the Hawks in receiving with 8 catches for 182 yards (an additional two receptions for 43 yards were negated by penalties) and the two touchdowns.