Knappa Loggers

Students at Knappa High School wished the football team well on Friday before the players left for the game against Coquille.

That’s two down, two to go for the Knappa football team.

The No. 6 seed Loggers are one step closer to their first state championship since 2008, as they defeated the No. 2 seed Coquille Red Devils 36-30 in a Saturday afternoon game on the south coast.

Knappa’s win puts the Loggers into the class 2A semifinals, where the Loggers will play Heppner next Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

The winner will advance to the state championship contest.

For now, Knappa will celebrate its eighth straight win.

In Saturday’s victory, the Logger offense gave Knappa a 36-22 lead heading into the final quarter, and the Logger defense picked up the save, stopping a late drive by the Red Devils.

“Wow, what a game,” said Knappa coach Aaron Barendse. “The kids and staff worked so hard the last two weeks in preparation. Breaking down film, practice planning and game plans. It’s really been amazing seeing the work put in.”

Knappa took the opening kickoff and marched down the field through the Coquille defense, all on the ground. Eli Takalo scored from a yard out for a 6-0 lead.

“I think our opening drive opened some eyes,” Barendse said. “Coquille is a well-coached, good football team that plays the right way. They go hard and they have some dudes on that team.”

And those dudes countered with a two-play drive, with Coquille’s Ean Smith providing the quick strike with a 41-yard TD run. The Red Devils converted the two-point conversion for an 8-6 lead.

Knappa answered the Coquille drive with a quick score of its own.

On a fourth-and-three play, Takalo connected with Devin Hoover for a 41-yard touchdown and a 12-8 Logger lead.

Coquille had the third lead change, Smith scoring on a 2-yard run and adding the two-point conversion for a 16-12 advantage.

The Loggers failed to convert on a fourth-down play on their third drive, but the Knappa defense — coupled with a pair of Coquille penalties — answered with a fourth-down stop of its own deep in Logger territory.

Drive No. 4 resulted in more points for the Loggers, who drove 80 yards in six plays. Kanai Phillip took a short pass from Takalo and turned it into a 55-yard touchdown. Knappa’s two-point conversion was successful, and the Loggers took the lead for good, 20-16.

The Red Devils fumbled the ball away on the first play of the second half, and the Loggers cashed in with a 6-yard run by Takalo for a 28-16 lead.

A long scoring run by Coquille had the Red Devils back to within 28-22.

Knappa started the ensuing drive from its own 50, and it took just four plays from there, with Phillip scoring on a short run, and Takalo converting the two points for a 36-22 lead.

Coquille added one more score, a pass from Jace Haagen to Yates. The Red Devils added a two-point conversion, then stopped the Loggers on Knappa’s next drive, which set up one final Coquille possession with 3:49 left.

But with no passing game and short on time outs, the Red Devils were unable to move the ball effectively. The Loggers sacked Haagen with five seconds left at the Knappa 27-yard line to end the game.

Smith and Yates combined to rush for 343 yards for the Red Devils, but Coquille had just 18 yards passing.

Knappa gained 185 yards rushing and Takalo completed six passes for 163 yards.

“We have a special group that no matter what happens they continue to find a way,” Barendse said. “We came out wanting to show we aren’t just a passing team. We can do a little of it all with the athletes and line we have.”

And good athletes with a good line produces big plays.

“We were able to make plays when we needed them the most,” Barendse said. “Camo ran tough and so did Eli. Kanai had a big 55-yard receiving TD and Devin came up big with one as well.”

Takalo “put the ball on guys and continues to be a great leader,” he said. “Our O- and D-line played their hearts out. That’s a huge team up front. We held our own and they came up with big stops at the end.”

Heppner is the No. 3 seed.

“We have a great team ahead of us that is well-coached,” Barendse said of the Mustangs. “I know they’ll have a plan for us and we’ll have one for them. We haven’t worked this hard and overcome this much to roll over now. I’m excited to prepare with these coaches and young men for a big semifinal game. These boys deserve this opportunity. They’ve done it the right way.”

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

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