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Estacada escapes with 6-0 win


Rangers intercept four passes to beat Molalla in league opener

If you had told Estacada’s Brigham Baker that his team would score just six points against Molalla last Friday, he would have thought you were joking.

That laughable scenario became a reality, however, as the Rangers opened their league schedule with a 6-0 win over Molalla to move to 4-1 on the season.

In their three games leading to their matchup with Estacada, Molalla was averaging more than 25 points a game while giving up over 40.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were holding opponents to just nine points a game and were scoring nearly 23 points a game. This was the team’s third shutout in five games.

“I don’t know if they stopped us or if we stopped ourselves,” Baker said. “Defensively, we’re dialed in, though, and I couldn’t be happier. Once we catch up offensively, we’ll be good.”

The game began slowly for the Rangers as penalties and drops plagued the Estacada offense and prevented them from getting things going.

After a first down on their first drive, a false start penalty ultimately led to a Ranger punt. But after Molalla sustained a long drive just past midfield, the Ranger defense came up with a big stop on fourth and 1 to regain possession.

On their very first play, the Rangers went with a play-action pass to tight end Jacob Lensch. But despite a perfect pass from quarterback Bryan Rhone, Lensch failed to haul the pass in for what would have been a huge play.

Despite the drop, the Rangers put together a decent drive that was, once again, ultimately stalled by a penalty.

On their next drive, the problem of dropping passes continued, but this time it was receiver Ryan Vauthier who saw a pass go through his hands, and for the third consecutive time, the Rangers were forced to punt.

After the teams continued to exchange punts, the Rangers caught a big break early in the second quarter when a Molalla touchdown was brought back on a penalty. The Indians notched a 54-yard touchdown run down the sideline, but a block in the back penalty brought it all the way back.

On the very next play, Molalla tried to force the ball deep into coverage, and the ball was intercepted by Vauthier near midfield. With a running back and wide receiver mentality, however, Vauthier brought the ball all the way back to the six yard line before being knocked out of bounds on the return.

Two plays later, the Rangers finally got on the board with a 3-yard touchdown run from fullback Brandon Beck. After the failed extra point, the score stood at 6-0.

On Molalla’s next possession, it was safety Bryan Rhone who came up big on defense with an interception of his own, giving Estacada the ball near midfield with about five minutes left in the half.

Looking to extend its lead before the break, Estacada marched downfield behind the running of Beck and running back Alec Barstad, driving all the way to the 18-yard line.

With just seconds remaining in the half, Baker decided to bring kicker Steven Weaver out for a 35-yard field goal attempt just one week after Weaver hit a 38-yarder against Yamhill.

Weaver’s kick was no good, and the teams headed into the locker room at 6-0.

For those looking for a radically different second half, this wasn’t the game for you.

Molalla did show some fight on the opening possession of the second half, marching from its own 43-yard line all the way to first and goal from the 10-yard line.

After a seven-yard run and pair of runs for a loss of one, Molalla faced fourth and goal from the 4-yard line and decided to go for it.

Bad decision.

For the third time of the night, the Rangers intercepted the Molalla pass, as Rhone batted the ball down into the hands of lineman Luke Youngberg, who returned the ball out to the 11-yard line.

“On the goal line, our two linebackers do a great job, and our defensive line is really the unsung hero,” Baker said.

After notching four first downs on the ensuing possession, the Rangers once again were forced to punt just as the third quarter was coming to a close. With the Indians punting right back to them, Estacada succumbed to the turnover bug as Beck fumbled the ball at the Molalla 22-yard line.

Once again, the Ranger defense held the line and forced the fourth Indian punt of the game with just 7:28 remaining on the game clock.

The Ranger offense got a couple big runs from Rhone and Vauthier to get the ball deep into Molalla territory to set up another field goal attempt for Weaver. This time, it was from 43 yards out, and while the distance may have been there, the kick sailed just wide.

“I asked Steven (Weaver) and he had hit from 45 before,” Baker said. “I thought in a game, with adrenaline pumping, maybe he could do it. That’s a great weapon for us to have, and we’re going to continue going to that.”

The Indians went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and the Rangers took over with just 2:56 left in the game as Molalla held just two timeouts.

After gaining a first down that could have seemingly ended the game, Barstad coughed up a fumble, and Molalla had one last gasp offensively.

As the Ranger defense had done all night, it came up big one last time. On the fourth play of the drive, it was Lensch who intercepted the Molalla pass to end the game and seal the 6-0 victory.

“Defensively, we made a couple adjustments in the second half,” Baker said. “Offensively we need to reiterate our rules because we didn’t play clean. Defensively, though, we play as a team with 11 guys that believe the guy next to them can do their job, and they trust that.”

The Rangers will host Gladstone at home this Friday at 7 p.m. The Gladiators come into the game 3-1 on the season after losing to La Salle 19-7 last week.