Warriors thwarted by speed in state playoffs

The North Douglas senior football players gathered for a photo after their final game as Warriors. Pictured are Colter Anderson (10), Tanner Parks (33), Eric Simons (70), Jake Gerrard (80), Caleb Clark (8), Tyler Kallinger (7), Lucas Rayon (52) and Austin Frieze (2).

After heading into the OSAA 1A Round of 16 on the heels of a five-game winning streak, the North Douglas Warriors saw their season come to an end at the hands of a familiar foe.

The Warriors (6-4, 4-1) traveled south to Klamath Falls on Fri., Nov. 8 to take on the undefeated Hosanna Christian Lions (9-0, 5-0), the two teams’ fourth matchup in the last three seasons. Much like the previous three contests, North Douglas fell to the seventh-ranked perennial contender, 60-28. It’s the second time in three years that North Douglas’ season was cut short by the Lions in the Round of 16.

“Our kids played great,” said head coach JJ Mast after the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. Great coaching staff. I can’t say enough how much these guys, every single coach on our staff, helps out … they really bought into it and that really helps the kids too.”

Mast was quick to praise his team despite the less-than-desirable finish and despite the team having opportunities to close the scoring gap in the first half.

With five minutes left in the first half, the Warriors trailed 22-14 and were driving. Senior quarterback Austin Frieze, a steady presence for North Douglas throughout their win streak, reared back and lofted the ball downfield. The coverage wasn’t what he and Mast were expecting.

“That’s certainly one Austin wishes he got back. He’s so strong mentally, it was great to see him stay in it,” Mast said.

The Lions intercepted the ball, returned it for a touchdown, converted a two-point try and, instead of a one-score halftime deficit, the Warriors found themselves in a 16-point hole that they couldn’t recover from.

“You give up a big momentum play on the road and they get going. We were never really able to get it back after that,” Mast added.

Though the play permanently shifted momentum in the do-or-die game, the Warriors players came in with a game plan to play physical and tough for four quarters. Hosanna had given up 18 points on defense in the 2019 season. North Douglas finished with 28.

“All the kids stayed in it. They didn’t hang their heads, they didn’t quit, they kept battling,” Mast said.

“Hosanna ended up being the better team that night. What else can you say, but, like I told the kids afterwards, they should be so proud of how far they came this year. It was really fun to watch and a fun thing to be a part of.”

Frieze and junior running back Wyatt McDaniel, central cogs for the Warriors offense, were key parts of the physical gameplan and each contributed two scores on the ground. Defensively, the Warriors wanted to neutralize the Lions’ speed and athleticism on the outside, partly by covering standout junior running back Mikey Sanchas and forcing Hosanna to spread the ball around.

“That was the plan and that’s where we had our success, running straight at them and not letting their athleticism overwhelm us,” Mast said. “When you’re playing straight-at-you football, it’s a toughness game and that was our advantage. You get behind though and you’re playing against the clock … ultimately that’s what got us.”

Though the season ended on a losing note, the contributions from departing seniors, the play of a number of underclassmen and juniors and a strong coaching staff have all but ensured that the football program at North Douglas will remain strong.

“I can’t thank these seniors enough for what they’ve done for the program and what they’ve instilled in the younger kids,” Mast said.

“That’s probably the most important thing, is how they act and how they react in certain situations and they’ve really just been positive all the way along. The young kids see that and that’s what they’ll take into next year.”

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