Tri-Valley football title on the line Friday
For the second season in a row, the Tri-Valley Conference title will come down to the regular season finale between Gladstone and Estacada.
Estacada won last last year's matchup 28-21 and are looking back-to-back undefeated seasons in league play.
"Our kids are jacked for this game," Estacada head coach Andy Mott said. "We've had our eye on it for a while."
Gladstone comes into this game 4-3 on the season and 2-1 in the TVC. A Gladstone win would mean that they would be co-champions with Estacada as both teams would have a 3-1 conference record, but the Gladiators would win the head-to-head tiebreaker. A victory for Estacada would mean that Rangers win the league outright.
Gladstone lost a 13-10 heartbreaker to Molalla in the first TVC game of the year, but responded with blowout wins over Madras and Crook County in their last two contests.
The key facet to the Gladstone offense is their rushing attack. The Gladiators average more that 270 rush yards per game and use a variety of different backs to carry the rock.
While they won't be a team that will air it own a ton, Gladstone isn't totally inept in the passing game. Quarterbacks Chandler Berks and Hudson Meyer — who have split time over the course of the season — have proved that they can beat teams with their arm if defenses get too focused in stopping the run.
The good news for Estacada is that they have shown that they can thrive against physical, run-heavy teams this season, and they are not afraid for a battle on the line-of-scrimmage.
"We have faced a few power-run teams this season, and we have proven that we can duke it out in the trenches," Mott said. "But (Gladstone) can open it us with the pass too and we will have to be prepared."
While Gladstone has multiple guys that can run the football effectively — nine different players have had rushing touchdowns for Gladstone this season — senior Dylan Ferris has established himself as the go-to-guy. Last Thursday, Ferris torched Crook County for 220 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.
On the defensive side, defensive lineman Jackson Simmons is the unquestioned leader. Simmons was a first-team all-state performer last season as a sophomore and has continued to be a headache for opposing offenses this season. Another key piece to the Gladstone defense is defensive back Deric Penn, who is one of the league leaders with four interceptions.
After underperforming in the first game of the season, the Estacada defense has been pretty effective in their last six contests and they also look to be peaking at the right time. Gladstone is a playoff-caliber team, but it is unlikely that they will be able to hang with a team as good as the Rangers. Look for Estacada to repeat as TVC champions on Friday night.