Estacada opens the Tri-Valley schedule Friday at Molalla

by: ESTACADA NEWS: PARKER LEE - Estacada running back Alex Barstad eludes a tackler in the backfield Friday against Yamhill-Carlton.Just as the Estacada football team was making its way from the locker room to the field to take on Yamhill-Carlton on Friday night, the skies opened and the rain began to fall. That turned out to be a bad omen for the Rangers.

Estacada let a seemingly-comfortable lead slip away as it fell to Yamhill, 39-28, on a slick, soggy playing field.

“We hurt ourselves with mistakes, but credit to them. They battled the whole way,” Estacada coach Andy Mott said.

It turned into a sloppy game, for both teams, immediately. On the opening kickoff, Estacada fumbled the ball away to the Tigers, and things only got worse from there. Estacada and Yamhill combined for nine turnovers in the first half, including one stretch in which the two squads fumbled away the ball on three straight plays from scrimmage.

The Rangers appeared to take control of the game just as the first half came to a close. On 4th-and-17 from the Yamhill 41-yard line, Estacada quarterback Willie Blankenship hit wide receiver Mitchel Sullivan on a streak down the right sideline for a touchdown as time expired. Running back Brandon Beck barreled into the end zone on the two-point try to give Estacada a 20-13 lead at halftime.

Estacada kept that energy created by the miracle touchdown and forced Yamhill into a three-and-out to open the second half. The Rangers marched down the field and scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Alec Barstad. Another two-point run by Beck put Estacada on top, 28-13.

Yamhill responded and scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Zach Rhodes to Connor Weidner. Even with that, the Rangers took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, everything went wrong for Estacada. Yamhill scored on a bomb from Rhodes to Weidner, then the turnover bug again claimed the Estacada offense while Yamhill’s offense came up with a few more huge plays. On two different drives, Yamhill faced 3rd-and-longs, and on both occasions, Rhodes hooked up with Weidner to stun the Rangers’ defense. The first was a 57-yard strike on 3rd-and-13 that set up the go-ahead touchdown. The second, on a 3rd-and-25 situation, went for 45 yards and a touchdown to put the Tigers up 39-28 with less than three minutes remaining. Yamhill grabbed on interception and ran out the clock to end it.

“They made some big plays when they had to,” Mott said. “When the opportunities were there, they took them.”

Estacada’s turnovers proved to be too much to overcome. The Rangers committed seven turnovers in the game, and almost all of them were costly. At the same time, they had to tip their cap to the Tigers and Weidner who had a sensational performance and was a force that couldn’t be stopped. He had four touchdown catches, and he returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.

“He was a great player,” Mott said. “They had some offensive weapons, and he was one of them who really hurt us with some great plays.”

Barstad was the highlight for Estacada. He had two touchdowns and more than 150 yards on the ground. Barstad had three runs of at least 35 yards, and he also had an interception.

The Rangers now turn their focus to Molalla and Tri-Valley Conference play.

“The preseason definitely helped us to see where we’re at,” Mott said. “We were able to see some different looks and some good things are happening. We know what we have to do improve and execute moving forward.”

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