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Warriors pull away in the second half

CORVALLIS — Untimely turnovers proved costly for the 11th-ranked Gladstone Gladiators Saturday afternoon, as they bowed out of the Class 4A state high school football playoffs in the quarterfinals, losing to top-ranked Philomath 35-17.

The Gladiators made a game of it for a half, trailing 21-17 at the intermission. But an an intercepted pass and a fumbled punt proved pivotal in the second half, when the Warriors put two more touchdowns on the scoreboard, while keeping the Gladiators out of the end zone.

Philomath junior defensive back Jack Lehman intercepted a pass at the Gladstone 30 on the first play of the third quarter. The pick gained Philomath great field position and the Warriors took full advantage, with 190-pound running back Austin Brown scoring on a 10-yard run, making it 28-17 Philomath near the midpoint of the third period.

Trent Hardin, a 215-pound senior, scored from 13 yards out early in the fourth quarter to up the Warrior lead to 35-17, and the Warriors had the game in hand.

Junior running back Handsome Smith had a big game for Gladstone, rushing 23 times for 195 yards. But the Warriors kept him out of the end zone.

Philomath scored on its first possession of the game, capping off a sustained drive with a 25-yard touchdown run by Brown.

The Gladiators were quick to answer, knotting the score at 7-7 on a one-yard run by junior running back Cooper Nelson and an on-target PAT kick by Alex Ameripour.

And a 37-yard scoring strike from Austin Galvin to Trevor Browning made it 14-7 Gladstone at the end of the first quarter.

Philomath made it 14-14 early in the second stanza, when Warrior quarterback Trey Ecker connected with senior tight end J.P. Parsons for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

The Gladiators then went on the march, but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Ameripour and a 17-14 lead, when the Warrior defense halted a drive in the red zone.

But that was the Gladiators’ last hurrah. Ecker connected with Parsons (4 receptions/78 yards) for an 18-yard touchdown pass inside the final minute of the second quarter, giving the Warriors a 21-17 lead and momentum heading into the second half.

Ecker was huge for the Warriors, completing 11-of-17 passes for 157 yards, with the two scoring strikes to Parsons. The 6-4, 165-pound junior has over 2,200 yards passing this season and he has not thrown a single interception.

Brown led the Warrior ground attack, rushing 24 times for 106 yards and his two touchdowns. But he left the game in the third quarter with a suspected concussion.

Still, the Warriors finished up with a 337- to 285-yard edge in total offense on the night.

It was the Warriors’ second win over Gladstone this season. They edged Gladstone 28-27 in a preseason game. Five turnovers proved costly for Gladstone in that game.

With Saturday’s win, the Warriors improved to 11-0 on the season. The win advanced Philomath to a semifinal game with fourth-ranked Ridgeview of Bend.

The Ridgeview Ravens (11-1) topped 12th-ranked Henley 28-21 in last weekend’s quarterfinals. Ridgeview is riding a 10-game win string, its last loss in a 14-12 barnburner with Klamath on Sept. 6.

Tri-Valley Conference champion Gladstone finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 8-3. The 35-17 loss to Philomath was the Gladiators’ lowest scoring game since a 20-16 loss to Class 5A Roosevelt on Sept. 6. Gladstone entered Saturday’s quarterfinal averaging 42 points an outing.

It was the second straight exit in the quarterfinals for Gladstone, which fell to North Bend 10-7 in the quarterfinals last fall.

Handsome Smith finished his junior year with over 1,500 yards in offense, picking up 1,550 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns on 152 carries.

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