RAINIER - Astoria coach Howard Rub said Rainier deserved the victory. Rainier coach Thor Ware felt his team was lucky to get it.
In the end, the fans couldn't have asked for a much better game as the Fishermen and the Columbians opened the Cowapa League season Friday night at Rainier.
The Columbians' Chris Ware played his latest game for the ages, and a tremendous effort by the Fishermen came up just short. Rainier posted a 32-27 win.
Time simply ran out on Astoria as Keenan Borgardt's pass fell to the turf on the final play, a second down from the Rainier 35-yard line.
"We just didn't play well, and we didn't deserve to win it," said Rub, whose team slips to 2-3 overall. "There's still no shame in playing a game like that, with the effort our guys gave right to the end.
"It was a tremendous effort," he said. "You have to give Rainier a lot of credit. They made plays and racked up some yards on us tonight. They did a better job of keeping us out of our red zone opportunities than we did with them. They deserved the win."
And coach Ware will take it. His team remains unbeaten at 5-0.
"I had no idea how this was going to turn out," Ware said. "It was a great game. I knew Astoria was big and physical. Defensively we didn't have a great game. They did a good job of adjusting to what we did."
It was Ware's son, Chris, who had the Fishermen trying to adjust all night.
Rainier's senior quarterback carried the ball 28 times for 209 yards and completed two passes for 53 yards as the Columbians racked up 378 yards in total offense.
Meanwhile, the Fishermen turned loose their "A-Mac Attack," as Adam McAloney and Andrew MacLean combined for two touchdowns and 134 yards rushing.
"We were real effective running the ball," Rub said. "We did well in terms of our offensive execution. I never dreamt that our defensive execution would have been so poor. We did what we could."
The Columbians opened the scoring on their first drive, capped by Ware's 64-yard run on a third-and-nine play.
While the Fishermen were unable to put up any points on their first two series, the Columbians were unable to hang onto the ball on their next three possessions.
When Chris Ware attempted to pitch the ball on an option play, Astoria's Luke Ness stepped in and grabbed the ball out of the air for the first turnover.
Rainier's next possession lasted just three plays. MacLean intercepted a Ware pass at the Columbians' 9-yard line. Two plays later, MacLean barged into the end zone from three yards out for the first Astoria score.
Rainier recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Columbians gave the ball back two plays later when Astoria's Bryce Harris recovered a fumble.
But just as turnovers were hampering the Columbians, the Fishermen were struggling with penalties - two on their next drive and 10 in the first half for 50 yards.
The teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 7:23 of the first half - Rainier's Joey Reid sprinted 40 yards for a score and a 16-7 lead; and Astoria responded with an 11-play, 57-yard drive, capped by McAloney's 4-yard run with 2:02 left.
The Columbians bounced back with an 80-yard drive of their own as Ware capped the series by throwing a 20-yard strike to Nick Byrd for a touchdown with 31 seconds left, giving Rainier a 24-14 halftime lead.
"The one key play was the touchdown right before half," coach Ware said. "That was huge. The goal-line stand (in the third quarter) was big, too."
Chris Ware carried 10 straight times on Rainier's first drive of the third period, but neither team could score in the quarter. The Fishermen came the closest as Borgardt connected with tight end James Jasper for a 34-yard play to the Columbians' 5-yard line early in the third.
But the Fishermen came up empty on four straight running plays, with Borgardt stuffed at the 1 on fourth down.
"We didn't execute well enough," Rub said. "If we have a fourth-and-goal inside the 1, we should be able to sneak it in. I have to believe that Nate Jump (6-2, 285) and Stefan DeLoff (6-5, 310) are going to push through people, enough to get less than a yard."
Astoria later pulled to within 24-21 when Borgardt found Mike Gallegos from 30 yards out.
But the Columbians came right back with a 72-yard march that took 6:37 off the clock - resulting in a 4-yard run by Ware for a 32-21 lead with 2:52 left.
Borgardt was intercepted on Astoria's next drive, seemingly bringing an end to Fishermen hopes.
But the Columbians fumbled the ball on their next play, and Astoria took advantage, driving 41 yards in four plays, sparked by a Borgardt-to-Gallegos 22-yard pass with Gallegos catching the ball while lying on the ground.
Two plays later, Jasper came down with a jump ball in the end zone, cutting Rainier's lead to 32-27.
The Columbians recovered the onside kick, but went four plays and out, giving Astoria one last chance.
Borgardt completed a 24-yard pass to Jasper to the Rainier 35, but the Fishermen ran out of time and luck when Nick Scheonborn knocked down Borgardt's final pass.
Borgardt finished 10-of-22 for 161 yards.
"We had good coverage, (Borgardt) was just putting them right there," coach Ware said of the Astoria quarterback. "You can't defend that. Their quarterback did a great job."
Despite rushing for 209 yards, Chris Ware said, "I could have done a little better. On the pitch that got intercepted - I should have kept that; I just should have made smarter decisions. We made a lot of mistakes."
Astoria's defense did what it could, but didn't have an answer for Ware.
"I thought we had a pretty good scheme for it, but they do a good job of opening lanes for him, and he does a good job of finding lanes," Rub said. "He doesn't have great breakaway speed, but he has good acceleration points."
Thor Ware admitted, "Chris got a little tired. We took him out a few times tonight. We give him a little break here and there."
Rainier's win sets up a big game Thursday at Scappoose, with the Indians coming off an upset loss at Banks Friday.
Astoria hosts Tillamook Thursday.
Tillamook 35, Seaside 7TILLAMOOK - A quick-strike touchdown gave Seaside the early lead, but Tillamook responded with 35 unanswered points in a 35-7 win over Seaside Friday night in the league opener for both teams.
The Gulls scored on their first play from scrimmage as quarterback Pat Latham connected with Bryan Robison for an 89-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Tillamook came back with four first-half touchdowns for a 27-7 halftime lead.
Levi Bennett rushed for 172 yards and scored three touchdowns for the Cheesemakers, who improved to 2-3 overall.
Tillamook racked up 337 yards rushing and 397 in total offense.
Seaside hosts Banks Thursday in the Gulls' Homecoming at Broadway Field.
Knappa 10, Clatskanie 7KIM ERSKINE - The Daily Astorian
Quarterback Brent Brockey (14) tosses the football back in Friday night's game in Knappa.KNAPPA - With the league season half over, the Knappa Loggers find themselves in a position they probably didn't expect - very much in contention for a state playoff spot.
The Loggers improved their chances dramatically Friday night with a 10-7 win over Clatskanie. A 57-yard interception return by Dana Barendse in the final quarter gave Knappa the upset victory.
With the win, Knappa improves to 2-1 in league play, tied with Corbett for second. The Cardinals upset Vernonia, 7-6, in overtime Friday.
Knappa scored first on a 34-yard field goal from Mergen Orazov, but the Tigers led 7-3 at halftime.
The Loggers struggled in the red zone, coming up empty six times, including once after a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line.
Clatskanie struggled with turnovers, including a fumble following a long run, recovered by Knappa's Casey Bushnell.
With 6:39 left in the game, Bushnell tipped a pass, which was picked off by Barendse and returned for a score, with the help of a big block from Brent Brockey.
Sean Ferguson led the Loggers with 99 yards rushing, while Barendse caught four passes for 56 yards.
Corbett and Knappa have a showdown for second place Friday at Knappa.
Warrenton 32, Battle Ground JV 0BATTLE GROUND, Wash. - Warrenton quarterback Nate McBride threw four touchdown passes to lead the Warriors to a 32-0 nonleague win over the Battle Ground (Wash.) junior varsity team Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors intercepted four passes, two by Nick Miller and another which was returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Shane Rudduck.
Zach Gantenbein caught three passes for 125 yards, including a 70-yard scoring toss from McBride. Just two games into the league season, the Warriors are the only unbeaten team left in the Northwest League. Warrenton hosts Vernonia Friday.
Jewell 58, Falls City 0JEWELL - Jewell had things well in hand after one quarter Friday night as the Bluejays finished the opening period with a 34-0 lead on their way to a 58-0 victory over Falls City.
Jewell's Joel Johnston ran 27 yards for a touchdown, returned a punt 76 yards for a score, threw two touchdown passes to Tim Meier and a third to Tony Busch.
Jake Johnston, Randy Layman and Lucas Spaulding added scoring runs for Jewell. Spaulding led the Jays with 124 yards on seven carries.
The seventh-ranked Jays improved to 5-0 overall, with a big game Thursday at second-ranked Perrydale.
Neah-Kah-Nie 22, Portland Christian 8ROCKAWAY BEACH - The Neah-Kah-Nie Pirates picked up their first win of the year Friday night, as they posted a 22-8 decision over Portland Christian (0-5).
Neah-Kah-Nie's Jake Jordan rushed for 202 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a 65-yard run in the second quarter. Ryan Harris caught four passes for 85 yards.
San Diego 24, Southern Oregon 19SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Warrenton's Dusty McGrorty became the all-time career leader in touchdowns among Northwest small colleges, scoring his 61st, 62nd and 63rd career touchdowns Saturday night in San Diego.
Unfortunately, it all came in a loss, as the University of San Diego upset Southern Oregon, 24-19.
McGrorty finished with 227 yards rushing - just four yards shy of his career best. He also moved to within 250 yards of Griff Yates' career rushing mark.
The Raiders fall to 0-3 on the season.