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NOTES: Blocked punt sparks Pioneers

Sandy keeps playoff hopes alive with win over Liberty


by: JULI CHURCHILL - Trailing 14-13 in the third quarter, the Pioneers changed the course of the game by blocking a Liberty punt inside the red zone. Sandy scored a touchdown on the next play and went on to win 20-14 last Friday at Sandy High School.

The Pioneers were given an impassioned speech at halftime — a speech the lethargic squad desperately needed if they were going to erase a seven-point deficit and hang on to their postseason hopes. But if that wasn’t enough, Sandy linebackers C.J. McKinnis and Andrew Spencer gave their team all the energy it needed.

The Pioneers pulled within one point of Liberty before forcing the Falcons to punt deep in their own territory midway through the third quarter. The two linebackers were able to block the punt and the ball rolled out of bounds at Liberty’s nine-yard line.

Sandy’s sideline exploded and on it’s first offensive play, quarterback Justin Adams threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Blake Robison, which gave the Pioneers a 20-14 lead and eventually the win last Friday at Sandy high School.

And by all accounts after the game, that play changed the direction for both teams.

“It was the big momentum swing that we needed coming out of halftime,” Adams said. “It was great. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Sandy running back Jeremy Funk said: “That got in the other team’s mind. They started going downhill and we started winning.”

PLAYOFFS

The Oregon School Activities Association reconfigured the parameters for the play-in round and lessoned the number of teams that could qualify. The top-24 teams will make it in, and Sandy’s seat at the table was in jeopardy before Friday.

And players knew about the circumstance.

“We talked about it. If we lose this game, we may only have two games left after this. So we came in thinking that we needed to win this game, then we’ll go play Sherwood and Wilsonville and our RPI is going to go up.”

With the win, Sandy is ranked 23.

STOP THE RUN

It was evident early that Liberty was going to live and die with its running game. The only time the Falcons passing game looked formidable were on two touchdown passes, both resulting from blown coverages.

The first came midway through the first quarter when quarterback Mike McBride connected with Sheldon Pittman for a 62-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 7-7.

by: JULI CHURCHILL - Sandy running back Jeremy Funk energized the crowd with an impressive rushing display last in the second half of a 20-14 win over the Liberty Falcons last Friday at Sandy High School.

The next was a 72-yard touchdown pass, again to Pittman, which gave Liberty a 14-7 lead.

But Sandy’s secondary locked down in the second half. This allowed the linebackers to focus on the run.

With more defenders in the box, the Pioneers did allow Liberty to generate much offense in the second half. And when the Falcons were forced to throw the ball, it was often ineffective.

“They’re a running team right now,” Sandy coach Greg Barton said. “So if you stop their run, you’re sitting pretty good.”

HEAVY RAIN

The Pioneers had not played or practiced in the rain since last season. So when they were forced to play in wet conditions on Friday night, it was, at times, a struggle.

Adams said it was “tremendously” hard to throw the ball, and for some, it was hard to hold on to.

Trying to extend a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Robison fumbled inside the red zone. The Falcons took over on offense, but Sandy’s defense forced them to punt.

The Pioneers fumbled again, this time with three minutes remaining in the game and at their own 23-yard line. Sandy once again called on its defense to come up with a crucial stop. The defense forced the Falcons into a third-and-11 passing situation.

McBride threw a pass toward the sideline, but Sandy cornerback Chase Thometz jumped the route and sealed the game with an interception.

Sports reporter Kristopher Anderson can be reached by at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

by: JULI CHURCHILL - Sandy celebrates after last Friday's win over the Liberty Falcons