Ontario advances to the semis with a hard fought 23-21 victory

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - La Salle senior Grant Studdard (3) prepares to fend off Ontario senior defender Max Maeda (1) in Saturdays Class 4A quarterfinal game with the Tigers.The outcome wasn’t what they would have liked, but the La Salle Falcons did themselves proud Saturday afternoon, taking Greater Oregon League runner-up Ontario down to the wire in a 23-21 loss in a quarterfinal game of the Class 4A high school football playoffs.

The Falcons held their own with the visiting Tigers despite the absence of senior Colin Meisner, their top running back and one of their top defensive backs. Meisner, who had averaged 7 yards a carry and rushed for close to 1,300 yards in 10 previous games, missed the game because of an injury.

Still, the outcome of the game was uncertain until the final horn. La Salle scored a touchdown and pulled to within 23-21 with a late fourth-quarter touchdown. And the Falcons had high hopes of a comeback-win as they attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.

But the football gods smiled on the Tigers, who pounced on the kick and then ran out the clock for the hard-fought victory.

The defending state champion Falcons had several players step up big-time, as they battled the Tigers tough through the last down. The score was tied at 14-14 at halftime and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Ontario scored what would prove the winning points on a 25-yard field goal.

Senior Grant Studdard carried much of the load at running back in Meisner’s absence, rushing for 82 yards on 20 carries. Prior to the game, Studdard had rushed for a total of 63 yards all season.

Studdard also hauled in three passes for 77 yards, with a 13-yard reception late in the first period staking the Falcons to a 13-0 lead.

La Salle senior quarterback Mark Holenstein gave it his all, rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown and passing for 101 yards and a touchdown. Holenstein was also tough on kickoffs, and he averaged 46 yards on three punts.

Sophomore running back Mike Bianca continued to show promise, picking up 47 yards in six trips with the pigskin.

Sam Eichhorn, a 200-pound senior lineman, also contributed to the ground attack, rushing twice for 29 yards and picking up his first touchdown from the backfield. It was the first time Eichhorn had rushed with the football this season.

Defenders also helped keep the Falcons in the game. Junior linebacker Ryan Cavanagh made 14 solo tackles and recovered a Tiger fumble; sophomore defensive back Drew Conaway had an interception; and senior lineman Jonathan Nagel recovered a fumble.

Still, the Tigers out-gained the Falcons 382- to 321 yards in total offense.

The Falcons had a hard time slowing Ontario senior quarterback Trampis Waite, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns, despite the cool, damp and blustery weather.

Senior Jake Lande led Ontario’s ground attack, picking up 154 yards and a touchdown in 27 carries.

La Salle finished the season with an overall record of 8-3, after going 5-0 in the Tri-Valley Conference for the second year in a row.

Saturday’s win advanced Ontario (9-2) to a 2:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon game at Hillsboro Stadium with seventh-ranked North Bend in the Class 4A semifinals. North Bend topped Gladstone 10-7 last Friday.

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