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Hillsboro Spartans' spread offensive attack is next test for 2-0 Class 5A Scappoose

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Quincy Cleveland rushes for Scappoose as the Indians defeat visiting Forest Grove, 44-32, at home last week.Two football teams that rode fast starts to wins a week ago in their first league games will look to assert themselves early again on Friday when the Scappoose Indians (2-0) visit the Hillsboro Spartans (1-1).

Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Hare Field as the Indians try to go to 2-0 in Class 5A Special District 1.

Coming off a 44-32 win over Forest Grove, Scappoose coach Sean McNabb is hoping for improvement from the Indians' pass defense and continued success running the football.

The Indians had control of last Friday's game, leading by four touchdowns early in the third quarter, but Forest Grove's passing attack came alive in the second half.

Against a Hillsboro team that runs a spread offense keyed by quarterback Kane Kiaunis, pass coverage will be important.

"Defensively, we're going to have to stop the pass. We're going to have to be in better position because they do throw the ball pretty well and they do have some good athletes," McNabb says. "(Kiaunis) is a converted wide receiver but watching him throw you wouldn't know that. It looks like he's been playing the position for quite a while."

Containing Hillsboro tight end Nate Smith, who caught two touchdowns in last week's 28-7 win at St. Helens, will be a point of emphasis. Being positionally sound against the fly sweep and containing Hilhi running back Thomas Johnson, who scored twice at St. Helens, including a 49-yard sweep on the first play, will also be important.

"Their best players are better than what we've seen so far (against Astoria and Forest Grove)," McNabb says. "They spread the field out and throw the ball pretty well. They have some really good athletes."

Hillsboro opened the season with a 38-14 loss to rival Glencoe, a 6A school.

Some of last week's second-half struggles for Scappoose defending Forest Grove's passing game can be attributed to rotating some less experienced backups into the game once the Indians built a comfortable lead. Not that McNabb sees that as an excuse for giving up four second-half touchdowns.

"They found some spots where we were a little bit vulnerable defensively," he says, adding that defenders were out of position on a few plays and there wasn't enough pressure on the quarterback.

The good news? Those things can be improved. Scappoose, which moved up three spots to No. 7 in this week's Oregon School Activities Association 5A coaches poll, improved from Week 1 to Week 2 on both sides of the ball.

"We played really physical, which is good," McNabb says.

Three pass interceptions — two by Blake Morkert and one by Ben Anicker — are evidence that the defense was more aggressive going after the football.

On offense, McNabb points to the passing game as the big improvement area from Week 1.

Quarterback Jakobi Kessi threw for 80 more yards against Forest Grove than he did against Astoria, completing 11 of 18 throws for 145 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings.

The Indians' ground game produced 391 yards and averaged more than 10 yards per carry against Forest Grove — even with senior Matt Roth missing that game because of an illness that impacted several Scappoose players last week.

Roth is healthy this week, as are most of the Indians' projected starters.

The Indians are averaging 340 yards per game on the ground.

Connor McNabb, himself getting over illness, ran for 182 yards and two TDs, including an 80-yard run that put Scappoose ahead 21-0 in the second quarter.

Kessi ran for 138 yards and a short touchdown, and Quincy Cleveland, filling in for Roth, had a 43-yard touchdown run.

"He's a big back who's hard to tackle," Coach McNabb says. "He made the most of his opportunities."

For McNabb and his coaching staff, the move into 5A Special District 1 is an opportunity to game plan against new opponents.

"The nice thing going into these games is teams don't know our tempo as far as no-huddle goes because they haven't played against us. We don't have a lot of tendencies we're giving them," McNabb says. "So it makes the game-planning really fun." 

Of course, that sense of surprise

One aspect of the new league that McNabb also likes that most games are on artificial turf — such as this week at Hillsboro's Hare Field.

"You're playing at a nice big stadium. You're playing in a nice big town. Pretty much every week you're playing on turf somewhere," he says. "I love playing on turf. We have some speed, and it allows us to use that a little bit."

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