Forest Grove shows plenty of grit and a timely kick in holding off a late charge from rival Hillsboro

by: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove football coach Dwight Jensen gives a speech to his team after the Vikings 24-16 defeat of Hillsboro.

The Forest Grove football team got its second win of the season over Hillsboro last Friday night. Winning consecutive games after a lackluster season would be reason enough for the Vikings to celebrate. But, how Forest Grove pulled off the 24-16 win made it even more special for the team.

“In the offseason we were playing for a successful season,” Vikings quarterback Zac Collins said. “Now we’re just trying to win every game we get a chance to. We just had to win it.”

Forest Grove (2-6, 2-4) appeared in control of the game until the fourth quarter.

The Vikings struck first with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. With the ball on the 3-yard line, Collins ran a sneak into the end zone. After the extra point, the Vikings led 7-0.

“We thought we had an advantage with the line,” Collins said. “We just called the play, snapped it and I just ran.”

Hillsboro (0-8, 0-6) evened the score on its next drive, though.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans sent the ball to Jake Lebrun. The Forest Grove return man fielded the kick, then outran the entire field, taking the ball to the house to give the Vikings a

14-7 lead, after the PAT.

“The blood was pumping,” Lebrun said. “We’re all out to get something. I was pumped.”

The Vikings remained in control of the lead with solid defense until 3:17 remaining in the third quarter, when Hillsboro mounted an 86-yard drive to tie the game.

The Forest Grove defense continued to struggle to make a stop on Hillsboro’s next drive. The Spartans drove the ball into the red zone, before trying to launch a pass into the end zone.

Lebrun was all over the Spartan receiver, though. He leapt up and picked off the pass. When the play was ruled dead, the officials marked Lebrun down at the 1-yard line.

Lebrun was shocked that he had not fallen into the end zone.

“I was thinking that I was in the end zone,” Lebrun said. “Then they called me on the 1-yard line. I knew I should’ve slapped it and let it go, but I picked it off.”

The ball being marked down at the 1-yard line would come back to haunt the Vikings. On the first play from scrimmage, Collins tried a quarterback sneak, running the same play he had scored the touchdown on earlier in the game.

The line collapsed around Collins, and he was swamped by Hillsboro defenders and tackled into the end zone for a safety, giving the Spartans a 16-14 lead.

“We tried to run the same play and it just didn’t work the way we were hoping,” Collins said. “There wasn’t much room for error on that play.”

When he saw the safety after his interception, Lebrun thought the game had been lost and that it was his fault.

“I was mad at myself,” Lebrun said. “I can’t even explain how mad I was. I thought the game was over.”

Forest Grove showed itself to be a far more resilient team than its record would indicate.

The Vikings stopped Hillsboro on the Spartans’ next possession and took over the ball deep in their own territory.

The Vikings marched the ball all the way down to the Hillsboro 1-yard line, but they could not punch the ball into the end zone.

On fourth down, with 22 seconds remaining in the game, Forest Grove called upon place kicker David Ortiz to make a 21-yard field goal.

“I was just looking at the scoreboard,” Ortiz said. “I was nervous, man. My legs were shaking.”

Ortiz did not need to be nervous, though. He split the uprights and gave Forest Grove a 17-16 lead with 18 seconds remaining.

“I just kicked it,” Ortiz said. “It’s what I do every day at practice. I’ve been doing it every Friday night. I just kicked it like every other field goal. The emotions before, went away. I was excited. I just wanted to cry. It was emotional.”

Forest Grove coach Dwight Jensen was proud of how much grit the Vikings showed to drive down the field and retake the lead.

“It showed a lot of character,” Jensen said. “The kids stepped up on that last drive, took it all the way down to their 1-yard line. The field goal to take the lead at the end, the holder did a nice job of scooping it down off the ground and the kicker did a nice job. I’m proud of them.”

Before the game ended, Hillsboro tried a desperation pass down the field. Lebrun jumped the route, picked the ball off and took it back for the game’s final touchdown.

“That was probably one of the best feelings that I have ever had in my life,” Lebrun said. “I was just doing it for the fans, doing it for the family that I work with every day. We deserve it.”

The Vikings will not have long to enjoy their win. This week, they have to play against a very good Tigard team in their last game of the regular season. Jensen says that going into the matchup against Tigard with two consecutive wins gives Forest Grove a better chance of competing with the Pacific Conference power.

“It’s better than taking eight straight losses into Tigard,” Jensen said. “Two straight wins is good. Tigard is a very, very good football team. It’s just a great football team. We’re going to have to play extremely well and get some breaks to compete in that football game.”

The odds makers would probably not predict a favorable outcome for Forest Grove against Tigard. However, after winning two consecutive games, if Forest Grove can stay healthy and be competitive with Tigard, it could set the Vikings up well for their Oregon Schools and Activities association play-in game the following week.

“It’s very good competition (against Tigard),” Jensen said. “It’s top of the line. They (Tigard) could compete for a state championship this year. But, if we stay healthy through the game next week, that will definitely help us out with the speed of the game going into the play-in game.”

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