Gladstone bags the TVC title, improves to 7-2

by: DAVID BLAIR - Gladstone running back Handsome Smith slips a tackle after taking a handoff from quarterback Austin Galvin (10) in Fridays Tri-Valley Conference title showdown with North Marion.It was a very happy homecoming for Gladstone High School football players, coaches and fans last Friday night, as the Gladiators played their best all-around game of the season in a 55-20 trouncing of North Marion.

The win gained the Gladiators (7-2, 5-0) the Tri-Valley Conference championship, Gladstone’s first conference championship since 2010, when Gladstone finished 12-1, losing only to eventual state champion Baker in the semifinals. North Marion (6-3, 4-1), with the loss, finished second in the TVC, losing only to Gladstone in league play.

“This means everything!” said Gladstone junior Trask Telesmanich. “I’m going to enjoy it with my brothers. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

“It means a lot,” said Gladstone senior Austin Galvin. “Our whole team worked so hard for this.”

Last Friday’s game was billed as a showdown between the TVC’s top two teams. But the Gladiators demonstrated that there is a huge gap between the TVL’s No. 1 team and second best team.

Gladstone defenders were in the Husky backfield all night, while the Gladiators rallied around junior running back Handsome Smith to run 59 plays and amass 442 yards in offense.

Gladstone team co-captains Handsome Smith, Andrew Conway and Galvin said they were not at all surprised at how lopsided the game turned out to be.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised,” said Smith. “We worked hard all week and we were prepared.”

“North Marion’s a good team, but I wasn’t surprised,” said Conway. “Everybody did their job and we executed. We had good practices all week and that was a key factor.... It was probably our best game defensively, we executed on offense, and it was our best week of preparation.”

“We executed better than we ever have before,” said Galvin.

North Marion finished up with 206 yards in offense and much of that came during the fourth quarter, when Gladstone reserves were on the field. North Marion starting quarterback Ben Crumley, a 6-0, 175-pound senior, completed only 7-of-15 passes for 108 yards.

The Huskies’ main running backs — 175-pound senior Tyler Saucedo, 150-pound junior Shane McKillip and 165-pound junior Emry Patterson — together picked up just 58 yards on 30 rushing plays. And North Marion star receiver Kyle Williamson had only one pass reception.

“Our defense stepped it up to another level,” said Galvin. “That was definitely our best defensive game.”

Galvin singled out linebackers Kyle Wou and Sterling Berks for their effectiveness in plugging the holes and keeping the pressure on North Marion quarterback Ben Crumley; and cornerback E.J. Penn for his defensive coverage on Williamson, the Huskies’ top receiver.

“E.J. Penn is the reason No. 2 [Kyle Williamson] didn’t get a lot of passes,” said Galvin.

Handsome Smith rushed 22 times for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and Smith ran his last offensive play with 3-1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“I’ve been working with my linemen a lot,” said Smith. “And they were opening the holes.”

Handsome Smith had 186 yards rushing at halftime, scoring first-half touchdowns on 50-, 46- and 3-yard runs.

The Gladiators led 14-6 at the end of the first period, 34-6 at halftime, and they scored on their first three possessions of the second half.

North Marion’s only score in the first three periods was a first-quarter touchdown scored on an 82-yard punt return.

Gladstone had five other players besides Handsome Smith score touchdowns — Galvin, on a 4-yard run; Zach Smith, on a 9-yard run; Trevor Browning, on a 13-yard pass from Galvin; Kyle Wou, on a 6-yard run; and Jake Jubb, on a one-yard run.

It was the fifth straight win for Gladstone, whose last loss came on Sept. 20 in a 28-27 barnburner with top-ranked and undefeated Philomath (9-0). Gladstone’s only other loss this fall was a 20-16 setback at the hands of Roosevelt, which is 8-1 and ranked fourth in Class 5A.

For North Marion, it was the Huskies’ first loss since a Sept. 20 game with Junction City, a 34-7 loss.

Gladstone, as a league champion, draws a bye from this Friday’s Class 4A state playoff play-in round. Ranked 11th in the OSAA power rankings, the Gladiators will host a first-round state playoff game on Friday, Nov. 8, against a yet-to-be determined opponent.

“We have to take it a week at a time,” said Conway. “But we believe we can go the distance, make it to the state championship game.”

“We’ve got crazy potential,” said Handsome Smith. “With the experience of the older players and the way the younger players have matured, I think we can take it all.”

“We’re looking to go all the way,” said Telesmanich. “But there are a lot of good teams out there, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to keep practicing hard, like we did last week, and keep playing hard, like we did tonight.”

North Marion hosts 13th-ranked North Valley (6-3) in this week’s play-in round.

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