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Gaston's season ends with a loss in the 2A state football playoffs

By Zack Palmer


Gaston football coach Reeve Woodward knew going into Friday’s Class 2A state playoff game that his team was up against a formidable opponent in Central Linn.

The eighth-ranked Cobras had won seven of their last eight games, including a 70-30 dismantling of Regis, a team that beat Gaston by 41 points earlier this season.

“I would say that Central Linn is a top five team,” Woodward said last week before the game. “Just between you and me, they’re quite a few points better than us.”

Turns out he was right. But the gulf was not as wide as he thought.

Gaston went down swinging on Friday night, rallying from a big early deficit to get within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but two late turnovers — including an interception that was returned for a touchdown — doomed the Greyhounds to a 34-14 loss in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.

“Looking at them on film, it looked like we were 70 points worse than them,” Woodward said of Central Linn. “They were a really good opponent, but if we would have gotten two breaks instead of them getting two breaks, we win the game.”

The Greyhounds (6-4) did themselves no favors in the early going, giving up a long touchdown on the second play of the game and falling behind 20-0 by the start of the second quarter.

The defense buckled down, however, keeping Central Linn (9-2) off the scoreboard for much of the second half, and the offense made a few key adjustments that led to a pair of third-quarter touchdowns — runs of 12 and 4 yards by senior fullback Sam Wismer.

“We couldn’t get anything going without Jordan DeLay on the line,” Woodward said of Gaston’s junior offensive lineman, who tore his ACL during the team’s regular-season finale against Knappa.

“Without him, we couldn’t get our power running game going, so we opened it up with our fly offense and we went right down and scored, then we got the ball back and went right down and scored again.”

Wismer’s two rushing touchdowns trimmed the deficit to 20-14 going into the fourth quarter, but that was when Gaston’s luck ran out.

A fumble led to a 10-play scoring drive for Central Linn that pushed the margin to 27-14, and late in the fourth quarter, with the offense desperately trying to make something happen, Central Linn returned an interception 45 yards for the clinching touchdown.

“We played pretty dang well,” Woodward said. “They’re a good team and we played them close. We just needed to get a couple breaks here and there.”

Wismer capped a fantastic senior campaign with 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns, giving him 1,082 yards and 17 TDs for the season. He was a First Team All-Northwest League selection as both a running back and linebacker, and he was also named league Defensive Player of the Year.

Austin Morey wrapped his season with 87 rushing yards, giving him 1,228 yards and 15 touchdowns for the year, to go with 368 receiving yards. The junior was a Second Team all-league selection on offense, and a First Team selection as a defensive back.

After Friday’s loss, Morey gave an impassioned speech to his teammates, lauding the senior class for their contributions while encouraging the younger players to continue building the program, which has won back-to-back league titles and qualified for the state playoffs three straight years.

“Austin gave a tearjerker speech at the end of the game about how much he loved all those guys and how much the seniors meant to him,” Woodward said. “Those seniors taught this younger group how to never give up. They’re probably not as talented as last year’s senior class, but they played harder.

“There was no back down or give up in them. They will be missed immensely.”

Woodward credited those six seniors — Wismer, quarterback Levi Watkins, wideout Josh Davis, running back Brandon Chivers and linemen Jackson Morgan and Austin Hurlburt — with keeping the program from sliding back toward mediocrity.

“We kind of thought this would be a rebuilding year, but we were right where we were last year,” he said. “That’s a testament to this senior class.”

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