Gladiators were ranked No. 1 in state before loss to La Salle last week

Riding a three-game win streak, the Estacada Rangers will host the Gladstone Gladiators on Friday at home, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

The Rangers are in a three-way tie for first place in the Tri-Valley League after one week of league games, but Gladstone’s 0-1 league record is a bit misleading.

Prior to losing last Friday to La Salle, Gladstone was the No. 1 ranked team in the state at the 4A level, and has since fallen to No. 2.

The Gladiators are 4-1 on the season, having beaten Astoria, Roosevelt, Stayton and Philomath by a combined score of 177-48. They lost 19-7 to La Salle last week.

“They’re big, fast and strong,” Estacada head coach Brigham Baker said. “They’re similar to us in that they have a power running game, and they run the ball really well. They have a lot of weapons to use and so we have to do a good job of playing a complete game.”

by: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: LOREN NIBBE - The Gladiators are led offensively by sophomore Handsom Smith, who plays tailback and who Baker said is the fastest player they’ll see all season. Defensively, Gladstone relies on linebacker Oscar Sanchez.

“He’s the real deal,” Baker said. “He was first team all-conference last year and he does a great job of playing middle linebacker.”

One other area of note is the center of the defensive line, where Estacada will have their hands full (to say the least).

At noseguard, the Gladiators have a sophomore who weighs 355 pounds. The Rangers’ center, who will be tasked with trying to block him all night, is just 155 pounds.

“That kid is only a sophomore,” Baker said. “So we better get used to blocking him.”

The good news for the Rangers is that La Salle has developed the blueprint for how the Rangers can try to beat Gladstone. The hard part is putting that plan into place.

Baker said that for his team, it will all come down to offense. The Rangers have struggled to hold onto the ball in recent weeks and only scored six points against Molalla last Friday.

If the Rangers stand any chance of competing on Friday night, both of those things will need to change.

“The nice thing about not playing a perfect game is that you’re due,” Baker said.

Among the players Baker said he’s relying on to have a big week this week are quarterback Bryan Rhone, linebackers Kordell MacPherson and Brandon Beck, defensive linemen Chris Smith, Luke Youngberg and Jacob Lensch.

“For this group of kids, they had such a long season last year, but they know that the expectation is to win,” Baker said. “We’re trying to get back to the status we once had where people were excited to beat us, rather than being a team people expected to beat. It’s an exciting time for us, but as far as building us up, I think we’re already there, they’ve built themselves up because they have worked hard for what we got.

“I don’t think they’re done working, because we need to get to 5-1 before we can get to 6-1.”

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