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Rangers squeak into playoffs


Estacada travels eight hours to Ontario Friday night

When Brigham Baker’s phone rang Sunday morning, he wasn’t sure what exactly his athletic director on the other end was going to say.

Just 36 hours after losing what he believed to be a must-win game, however, the news was good: The Rangers had advanced into the play-in round of the state playoffs with an at-large bid.

The bad news? They would have to travel to Ontario, in far Eastern Oregon near the Idaho border.

So with an eight-hour bus ride looming, Baker got to work Monday morning trying to arrange the team’s travel plans, while simultaneously preparing for the team’s biggest game of the season.

Despite all of the trouble he's had with getting the buses set up, it might be the preparation that is his most difficult task this week. Not only do the Rangers and Ontario lack a single common opponent, there isn’t even an opponent’s opponent who has played Ontario this season.

The Tigers play half of their games against teams from Idaho. On the season, Ontario is 6-2, with a 2-1 record in Greater Oregon League play against Baker, McLoughlin of Milton-Freewater and La Grande.

“They’re very similar to us, running double tight ends,” Baker said. “They love throwing the ball long and completing it, but it all starts with a good power running game.”

Another advantage for Ontario is the sheer size of its program, which boasts a roster of 75-80 players. One reason for the big turnout is the notoriety of a couple of their alumni — A.J. Feely and Dante Rosario — both of whom went on to play for Oregon and then in the NFL.

“It’s definitely a high school with a proud tradition, and so they expect to win football games over there,” Baker said. “But other than having to travel all the way out there, Ontario is a good draw for us. They’re certainly not the best or worst team we have played, so we should be able to give them a good matchup.”

The key for the Rangers will be their ability to finally get their offense up and running smoothly. Baker says the team’s most effective game was against Scappoose, their second game of the season.

“We’ve still yet to put together a game where we walk out and feel like we played good,” he said. “We’re due for one of those, and it needs to happen this week.”

The Rangers will leave for Ontario on Friday morning at 7 a.m. for an eight hour bus ride with a stop for lunch and dinner. After the game, they’ll return to Estacada sometime around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“I’ll have 24 hours with these guys,” Baker said. “It’s going to be something else.”

Looking back at how Estacada was able to sneak into the playoffs, Baker attributes it to a lot of luck and things going Estacada’s way. He estimates that six different things needed to happen for Estacada to qualify, none of which were likely.

Among the favorable outcomes was North Bend beating No. 1 ranked Siuslaw on the road and Central beating Newport at home.

“There were some things that definitely bounced our way Friday night because we thought our season was over,” Baker said. “Luck has traveled our way.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Ontario.