It was a nice start to the league season, to say the least, for the Knappa Loggers.

On the road and facing the Northwest League favorite, the Loggers shocked the Warrenton Warriors, 32-23, Friday night in front of a charged up Warrior crowd.

“Honestly, we knew that whoever won this game would be in the driver’s seat for the league title,” said Knappa coach Aaron Barendse, whose team improved to 2-2 overall, 1-0 in league. “We had lost our last two coming in, and this was the best team we’ve seen on film.

“This game is always a battle,” he said. “It’s a good rivalry, great atmosphere … I’m just proud of our guys, proud of their conduct. We did it right.”

Eli Takalo, in his first game back as quarterback for the Loggers, threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more to lead Knappa, which takes over the league favorite role.

The Loggers had to work for Friday’s win, however.

Knappa’s 16-0 lead midway through the first quarter had turned into a 23-16 deficit by halftime, as the Warriors took advantage of a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Hordie Bodden Bodden and a 21-yard field goal by Kenzie Ramsey. A Knappa turnover late in the first half led to a Warrenton go-ahead touchdown with 29 seconds left in the second quarter.

But the Warriors’ go-ahead touchdown was also their last score of the night.

The Knappa defense tightened up and shut down Warrenton over the final two quarters, holding the Warriors to 222 yards in total offense — not bad, considering the numbers Warrenton had been putting up through three weeks.

In the third quarter, a 22-yard touchdown pass from Takalo to Kanai Philip and a two-point conversion run by Jaxson Goodman put the Loggers back in front, 24-23.

Early in the fourth, Takalo scored on a 15-yard run, then passed to Hoover for Knappa’s fourth successful two-point conversion for the final margin.

Takalo even finished the night by intercepting a Warrenton pass with 3:11 remaining.

Takalo was 11-for-17 passing for 186 yards, and rushed 23 times for 170 yards. Philip caught six passes for 115 yards, and Hoover had five receptions for 71 yards.

“Being Eli’s first game back, he was limited,” Barendse said. “We wanted to hold him to 20 passes or fewer, and we were able to do that.”

On the other side of the ball, “our defense has been playing tremendous football,” he said. “They’ve kept us in games. Drew Miller did an outstanding job at linebacker, and Cam Miethe did a great job defensively.”

The Knappa coaches, he said, “put together a game plan, and the kids bought into it. Our offensive and defensive lines both played great. Isaac Goozee was back, unfortunately he got hurt again, and Spencer Teague is back at full strength.”

For Warrenton, quarterback Jake Morrow was 6-of-15 for 48 yards, while the Warriors gained 174 yards rushing on 38 attempts.

After a bye week, Warrenton hopes to bounce back Oct. 11 at winless Vernonia (0-4), while Knappa hosts Vernonia this Friday.

Gary Henley is a sports reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 503-861-8493 or ghenley@dailyastorian.com.

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