From pregame warmups to the post-game celebration, the hoots and hollers of a fired-up North Douglas football team could be heard echoing throughout Drain last Friday.
In the play-in round of the OSAA 1A State Playoffs on the evening of Nov. 1, the ninth-ranked Warriors (6-3 overall, 4-1 league) took on visiting Siletz Valley (3-5, 3-2) and put together a wire-to-wire 48-0 victory, dominating all phases of the game en route to a spot in next weekend’s round of 16.
Winners of their last four games coming into this playoff, and replete with graduating seniors in their final year of football, North Douglas entered this matchup with both momentum and plenty of reason to leave it all on the field.
“We challenged them to make sure this isn’t your last game,” said head coach JJ Mast after the game. “And the younger guys, make sure it’s not their last game. There’s a finality to it when you’re done. You can’t show up to the gym on Sunday and pad up and play some football. So these guys, each week they’re going to want one more and hopefully we see that same effort.”
The motivation was apparent from the first drive as the Warriors took three plays to get a first down, quickly followed by a 35-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Austin Frieze to standout junior running back Wyatt McDaniel. The same connection produced a two-point conversion, giving North Douglas an early 8-0 lead and they never looked back.
“They were ready,” Mast said.
“Something we talked about was putting four quarters together. We play three and leave one out and let a team back in the game, so we really challenged them to come out — especially in the second half when we jumped out to a lead — and learn to finish teams. They did a great job of it,” Mast continued.
Frieze played a starring role. When all was said and done, he contributed three passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns, accounting for six of the Warriors’ seven total scores. However, the senior quarterback was far from the only contributor as North Douglas completed big play after big play.
McDaniel caught two touchdown passes and converted a pair of two-point conversions. Sophomore running back Palu Rayon-Wilder took a reverse 63 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to give the Warriors a commanding 20-0 lead. The defense swarmed together to make tackles and create turnovers all night.
On one particular first half drive seniors Jake Gerrard and Tyler Kallinger both caught highlight-reel passes from Frieze, the first of which prompted an already-dejected Siletz Valley defender to lament, “That’s gonna be on ESPN.”
Kallinger in particular took his leadership beyond the play-by-play on the field and could be heard whooping and shouting after every catch, run and tackle, making sure his team’s energy stood no chance of waning throughout the game.
“More [contributors] than any team I’ve had,” Mast said. “I think every guy out there on the roster has a role somewhere in what we’re doing. It’s everybody’s team … They’ve all kinda carved out their own role in what we do and that’s great to see.”
When the fourth-quarter clock ticked to zero, the Warriors saw that their effort paid off. In a game where it was no one individual who sealed the win, the players turned to their head coach to celebrate, dousing Mast with what remained in the team water cooler.
“That was cool … I thought I could get away, but a couple of them got me from behind and I didn’t have anywhere to go. We’ll have a fun practice on Monday. It might be an ice bath day for everybody. Outdoors,” said Mast, laughing.
After reaching the 1A state quarterfinals in 2016, North Douglas has found themselves eliminated in the Round of 16 each of the last two seasons. They will look to get over the hump against a familiar foe on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. as they head to seventh-ranked Hosanna Christian (8-0, 5-0), the team that eliminated them in 2017 and beat them earlier this season 46-6.
The Warriors, however, have reason for optimism. The first game came early in the season when North Douglas started 1-3 and was still working out kinks in their scheme and roster. They have since won five consecutive games by an average margin of 20 points.
“Hosanna knows us well, we know them well. I certainly think we’ll show better [than the first matchup],” Mast said.