The 17th ranked Cottage Grove football team just wanted a chance. They wanted to be in the game against second-ranked Gladstone in the first-round of the playoffs last Friday on the road Down five points in the closing minutes of the contest, the late rally from the Lions fell short as the Gladiators won – in a misleading final score of – 37-25.
After staying close throughout the game, the Lions were down five with less than five minutes to play and were driving. A pair of Cottage Grove penalties and a sack pushed them back and the Lions faced third-and-42. Able to pick up 23 yards to set up 4th and 19 from the Gladstone 34 but Dylan Graves came up incomplete on a pass to Erick Giffen.
“We had a shot. I’m not one to – the officials didn’t cost us the game – but the fourth down play, Erick Giffen was absolutely held. So really bad. And they just swallowed it, didn’t even throw the flag and that killed us,” said Roberts. “It should have been a first and 10 with the ball inside the 20 or inside the 10 with a couple minutes left.”
Instead it was Gladstone converting on a third down to all but seal the victory and then a 37-yard touchdown run for the Gladiators to send home Cottage Grove.
“We gave them everything we could and I’m proud of my kids. I think if you put – and I’m just being honest, this isn’t a shot at our kids, this is a complement to our kids – if you lined up our top 22 and their top 22, I think anybody passing the eyeball test would take their 22,” said Cottage Grove head coach Gary Roberts. “But not me. Our kids fought and they fought hard. I’m super proud of them, they have nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be proud of.”
The game quickly became a contrast in styles as both teams became one-dimensional. For Gladstone, with a strong offensive line, they relied on a ground attack that was good for 406 yards on the day – 170 yards from Sabastian Peiffer and 124 from Mason Scheehan – and four touchdowns. Gladstone passed the ball just five times in the game.
“We’re just a little out-manned upfront on defense and that cost us. We just couldn’t matchup inside. But tip your hat to them. I mean, that’s, they have big, physical kids and they used that to their advantage tonight,” said Roberts.
For the Cottage Grove offense, it was a different story as they turned into a rather successful air-raid attack. On the day, the Lions had 449 yards through the air with Dylan Graves going 28-for-42 for 377 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Erick Giffen added 72 yards of passing on a touchdown completion to Matt Zumwalt. Zumwalt had four catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Giffen had 17 catches for 167 yards.
“We moved the ball. Dylan played a really good football game. He did a really good job…and I’m proud of him,” said Roberts. “I thought we executed pretty well on offense.”
But for all the success of the passing attack, the Lions were unable to establish a rushing attack and after some sacks and a tackle for loss on a punt, the team finished the game with -27 rushing yards.
After trading touchdowns, a late first-quarter Gladstone touchdown put the home-side up 13-7 when the Lions drove downfield. With first and goal on the five, Cottage Grove settled for a Giffen field goal. After a defensive stop, Cottage Grove was again driving but a fumble turned into a scoop-and-score for Gladstone to go up 10 in the final minutes of the first half.
While it looked like the teams might pack it in and head to the half, the Lions answered with a one-play drive that saw Giffen finding Zumwalt for a quick strike. After a missed extra point, Gladstone put together a five-play drive for a touchdown. Cottage Grove again had first and goal but had to settle with a field goal before the half expired.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Lions marched down field and Graves found Jacob Dunn for a 19-yard touchdown to cut their deficit to just two points. While both offensive units were having their way in the first half, it was both defensive sides coming up with stops in the second half. After the initial Cottage Grove score, both teams were continuously stopped. A Gladstone field goal gave the team a five-point advantage in the closing minutes before the Gladiators sealed the victory.
Gladstone will face seventh-ranked La Grande on Friday in quarterfinals.