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Mustangs self-destruct


Seven miscues prove costly in a 34-6 loss to the fourth-ranked Wildcats

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Milwaukie quarterback DaJuan Gant had receivers and defenders battling over his passes all night. This one was out of reach of both Milwaukie receiver Trevantae Anderson (left) and Wilsonville defenders.Fans packed Milwaukie High School’s stadium Friday night in anticipation of a hotly contested football game between their own Mustangs and Class 5A state powerhouse Wilsonville.

But it was Milwaukie’s homecoming game, and the homecoming activities apparently served as a distraction, as the Mustangs struggled to stay focused, and did plenty to help the visiting Wildcats out in a 34-6 Wilsonville victory.

The Mustangs had two botched punt plays in addition to five turnovers, and nearly every miscue proved costly.

The Wildcats halted Mustang drives with an interception at the Wilsonville 5 in the first quarter, an interception at the Wilsonville 6 in the third stanza, and an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

A bad snap from center on a punt gave the Wildcats the ball at the Milwaukie 31 for a short field and a touchdown early in the second quarter; the Cats returned an interception 48 yards to the end zone for a touchdown that put Wilsonville up 27-6 near the midpoint of the third period, and a botched punt gave the Cats the ball at the Mustangs 1 and set up Wilsonville’s final score late in the fourth quarter.

Because of all the miscues, the Mustangs had the ball for only 26 offensive plays, compared with 56 plays run by the Wildcats. Still, Wilsonville managed only a 318- to 270-yard edge in total offense.

“It hurts a lot,” said Milwaukie team co-captain Jake Leary. “Especially it being homecoming. It just tears me up. It sucks. We played our worst game.”

The Mustangs began the game like a house afire. They followed up the opening kickoff with a seven-play touchdown drive, with Milwaukie senior quarterback DaJuan Gant passing five yards to Richard Ramsey for a touchdown and a 6-0 Mustang lead.

The Cats punted on their first possession, and the Mustangs went to work again, marching down the field on a five-yard run by Eddy Barrientos-Thomas, a long pass to Kendrick Bourne and a 16-yard run by Ramsey.

But then the wheels began to fall off. Wilsonville senior Ryan Walsh stepped in front of a wayward at the Wildcat 5 and returned the ball to the 34. Ten plays later, Wilsonville senior quarterback Nick Highberger skipped one yard to the end zone for a touchdown and a 6-6 tie.

On the Mustangs’ next possession, a snap over the head of punter Taylor Stanford gave the Cats the ball at the Milwaukie 31. Six plays later, Walsh sprinted eight yards to the end zone to make it 13-6 Wilsonville four minutes into the second period.

Highberger orchestrated a 10-play touchdown drive on Wilsonville’s first possession of the second half. Senior running back Tanner Shipley scored from the 2, upping Wilsonville’s lead to a more comfortable 20-6.

Walsh came through with his second of three interceptions five minutes into the second half, and his 48-yard interception return to the end zone made it 27-6 Wilsonville and put the Mustangs in a panic mode.

Interceptions by Walsh at the Wilsonville 6 late in the third quarter and by Wilsonville junior defensive back Brandon Chao in the end zone early in the fourth, held the Mustangs at bay.

And when Stanford failed to get a punt off and handed the ball to the Cats on downs at the Mustang 1-yard line with three minutes to play, it was all over but the shouting.

Ramsey and Bourne headed Milwaukie’s offense, Ramsey with eight carries for 72 yards and Bourne with seven receptions for 164 yards.

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Wilsonville junior defensive back Brandon Chao (80) jumps in front of Milwaukie junior wide receiver Tyler Spencer in the end zone to steal a touchdown in Friday nights game at Milwaukie.Gant completed 12-of-22 passes for 184 yards, but he threw four interceptions.

Shipley was a workhorse for Wilsonville, rushing 29 times for 193 yards and a touchdown; Walsh had 13 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown.

The win kept the fourth-ranked Wildcats (5-1, 4-0) tied with third-ranked Sherwood (6-0, 4-0) in first place in the Northwest Oregon Conference standings. Milwaukie slipped to 2-2 in conference (4-2 overall) with the loss.

Milwaukie hosts Parkrose (2-4, 0-4) this Friday, while Wilsonville entertains Sherwood.

Milwaukie first-year head coach Don Johnson said he still believes in his Mustangs.

“We’re not the old Mustangs,” Johnson said. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, but it’s nothing we can’t clean up....

“Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to finish top three in league with Sherwood and Wilsonville, and I believe we’re still on track to do that. Finishing top three in league and making a run in the playoffs, those are still our goals.”

“We’ll definitely bounce back,” said Leary. “I know we can win the next three.”

Leary said that he and his teammates appreciate the support the community has given Milwaukie’s football program this season.

“It feels great, knowing we’ve turned the program around,” Leary said. “People want to come out and watch us now. It feels good. It makes me want to keep on playing.”

Stephens scores six times

as Putnam buries Liberty

Try as they might, the Liberty Falcons on Friday had a hard time keeping the ball out of the hands of Putnam star DeShawn Stephens, and they paid the price.

Stephens had over 300 yards in all-purpose offense, and the 6-1, 190-pound senior scored six touchdowns to lead the Kingsmen in a 63-0 rout of the visiting Falcons.

It was the second consecutive high-scoring game for the Kingsmen, who a week earlier scored a school-record 68 points in a 68-40 win at Parkrose.

Stephens last Friday netted 217 yards on four punt returns, returning three of them to the end zone for touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and he hauled down three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.

Stephens returned punts of 55-, 75- and 77 yards to the end zone in the second quarter, to help stake the Kingsmen to a 42-0 halftime advantage.

The Kingsmen also got a big game from 5-9, 165-pound senior running back Eli Skiles, who picked up 134 yards and scored three touchdowns in just eight trips with the pigskin.

And the Kingsmen came through with a big game on defense, containing the Falcons to just 127 yards in offense on the night.