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Tribe football 'humbled' in loss to Gladstone, starts Cowapa League play

"It sucks to lose, but I think it's a good thing for these guys and all of us as a staff to be humbled a little bit and put us in a position to maybe work a little harder and persevere through this." — Scappoose head coach Sean McNabb

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose senior quarterback Joey Krupsky (13) talks with his teammates on the field before the game in Gladstone got underway. Krupsky continues to lead the Indians on offense with 14 touchdowns combined this season.With a little less than four minutes remaining in the first half, Scappoose head football coach Sean McNabb looked up at the scoreboard and saw something that he hadn't seen in quite a while: nothing.

The Indians had made the trip to Gladstone for one of the highest rated Class 4A games of the year, and hadn't produced much through the first two quarters. They watched as the Gladiators ran up a 21-point lead and stifled a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts in the red zone to keep Scappoose holding a goose egg.

The visiting Tribe rebounded in the second half and cut the lead to six points, but ultimately made too many mistakes down the stretch and dropped their first big contest of the year 35-21 to Gladstone.

“They were definitely better than us that day. They definitely were,” McNabb said in practice on Wednesday. “They outplayed us in the first half. The end result was we had more yards offensively, but we gave up too many sacks, we had a lot of penalties at inopportune times, and they were foolish penalties — penalties we can't have.”

The minutes before halftime were grim. With Scappoose advancing downfield and looking for their first score, Gladstone safety and star running back Handsome Smith stepped forward to jump on an errant Joey Krupsky pass into an open area for the Indians' third turnover of the half. Smith returned the ball to the Gladstone 38 yard line, starting a 10-play, 62-yard drive to score with 3:55 to go in the second quarter.

Now Scappoose had their backs against the wall. Score here, or face a juiced Gladstone defense in the second half, hungry to embarrass the No. 6 team in the state.

In came Krupsky, who was fresh off a rough patch at quarterback. The series prior to the Smith interception, Krupsky was sacked on fourth down at the Gladstone 21 yard-line to give the ball up on downs.

For Krupsky, it was high time to change the game, and change he did. His first play, an 11-yard scamper, pushed Scappoose to their own 41 yard-line. Two plays later, it was an eight-yard pickup to the Gladstone 45 yard-line, then a pass to twin brother David Krupsky on fourth-and-four that put Scappoose in scoring position on the Gladstone 32 yard line.

A quick 32-yard toss to Jake Ford, and Scappoose was finally on the board, just over a minute before the first half clock had run out, trailing 21-7 at the break. McNabb, regardless of the last-second score, was confident heading into the locker room.

“I felt at half time of that game that we could win it,” he said. “I felt good about our chances of being able to come back. I feel good about, with these guys going into a game, I feel like if we're behind, we always have a chance to win. I felt like we could come out and get it done.”

Gladstone struck first in the third quarter, scoring on a 53-yard drive that took nine plays. Once again, it was Smith — Handsome Smith — who powered to the house, this time giving the Gladiators a 27-7 edge with little more than seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

Just a few minutes later, though, Scappoose leapt on a huge opportunity. Gladstone punted from their own five yard line, and though the Indians didn't get a return out of the play, the visitors were set up with the ball at Gladstone's 39 yard-line. It took Scappoose and lightning-quick running back Jarrett White just three plays to reach first-and-goal before Joey Krupsky punched in the score.

Scappoose struck again as Gladstone began to melt down in the opening minutes of the final frame. Backup quarterback Sean Williams, playing in place of starter Wolf Forrette after an injury in the second quarter, hit a wide-open Sir'Ray Smith to push all the way to the Indians' 15 yard-line. Zach Smith — no relation to Sir'Ray and Handsome, who are brothers — ran the 15 yards for a touchdown on the next play, but it was called back on a penalty. Zach Smith was dropped for a loss on the following play, and on second-and-17, Scappoose offensive lineman Devin Ray picked up a fumble as it hit the turf.

Joey Krupsky found brother David along the left sideline on third down, moving the ball to just inside Gladiator territory before throwing Jacob Wendelschafer's way a few plays later. “Wendy,” one of the Indians' senior wide receivers, dashed up the middle of Gladstone's defensive secondary before being stopped at the seven yard line. A strange handling of offsetting personal foul calls pushed Scappoose back to the 18 yard-line, but it didn't matter. The Krupsky connection clicked yet again, as Joey lofted the ball up to David in the back corner of the end zone.

Now, it was all Scappoose. A missed two-point conversion on the Gladiators' last score meant the Indians trailed by only six points with nine minutes to go and a high-octane offense operating on all cylinders.

But that's where things started to fall apart. Scappoose held Gladstone down and force a punt, but took a huge penalty on the return that put the Indians back on their own 14 yard-line. Two plays later, Joey Krupsky was sacked inches from the goal line, and Scappoose had to run the ball out with the intent of giving their punter more room to work with. Another penalty on the return gave the home team a golden chance with the ball at the Indians 35.

The chance was too good to pass up. Gladstone picked up a touchdown from Zach Smith, his second of the evening and stood tall on fourth-and-seven at their own 14-yard line. The Gladiators didn't flinch as Wendelschafer came one bobbled ball away from scoring with just over a minute left, instead snatching possession back and taking a knee to ice the contest.

It was the post-punt possession that stuck in McNabb's mind after the game.

“Looking back on that, let's just say we don't get that penalty. We get a couple of first downs. If we don't score that drive, we make them have to march down the length of the field,” he said. “There were some chances that we didn't capitalize on, some opportunities that we let go.”

As frustrating as the loss might be, Scappoose has plenty of things to feel good about. Firstly, no one has been able to stop the top-ranked Gladstone offense other than the Gladiators shooting themselves in the foot. Secondly, the Indians turned the ball over on downs three times inside the red zone and still came within one touchdown of taking a fourth-quarter lead. Most of all, the loss has helped to focus the team and coaches alike ahead of Cowapa League play.

“I'm an optimist, and I'm going to look at these types of things as a 'yeah, it's a setback, but it's an opportunity to learn from that,'” McNabb said. “If anything, I think it's a good thing for us. It sucks to lose, but I think it’s a good thing for these guys and all of us as a staff to be humbled a little bit and put us in a position to maybe work a little harder and persevere through this.”

McNabb said he didn't feel the team came into the game well prepared, especially for the opponent they were about to face. They knew Gladstone was chalk full of talent in the backfield, he said, but Scappoose didn't walk in to the stadium in the right mindset. After having a helping or two of humble pie against the now top-ranked team in state, McNabb thinks they're set for the game against Astoria in the league opener.

“Their kids, like our kids, they look at it as a big rivalry game,” he said. “They're going to come out and play us hard and play us tough. Again, we've got to play smart football and take advantage of opportunities to score in the red zone and things of that nature. I feel good where we're at.”

Astoria comes off a loss as well after falling 23-20 to Philomath last Friday. The Warriors — that's Philomath — lost 55-27 in week one to Gladstone, and won by six points combined in weeks two and three.

Astoria is centered on the play of junior running back Carter Wallace, a bruiser at 6-feet, 218 pounds out of the backfield. Wallace ran 12 times for 171 yards in the Fishermen's 39-8 win over Yamhill-Carlton on Sept. 12, and rumbled 12 times for an additional 95 yards against Corbett.

The thing is, he's not the only oversized athlete that is capable of taking a hit and punishing an unsuspecting defensive back. Tight end Kai Brown stands at 6-foot-three, weighing 221 pounds, and while they don't throw his way often, he's got speed, managing 47 kick return yards against Corbett on Sept. 5.

Like Scappoose, Astoria isn't built to play smash-mouth football. They're light, they're speedy and they've got a reliable quarterback in sophomore Fridtjof Fremstad — and yes, that's spelled correctly.

Scappoose and Astoria will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.

By John William Howard
Sports Editor
Office: 503-435-5287
Email: jhoward@spotlightnews.net
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