Warrenton team goes where it once went beforeThe Warrenton Warriors are getting set for their semifinal playoff appearance against a team gunning for its fourth consecutive state title and its first under a new head coach.
The Warriors are big underdogs, they have a McGrorty on the injured list, and Warrenton head coach John Mattila calls the opponent "big and quick ... they run and they pass. We wouldn't mind if it rained - that would slow them down some."
In Corvallis, meanwhile, the Ducks and Beavers are getting set for another Civil War showdown for state bragging rights.
All of the above could easily describe what's on tap for this weekend, as the Warriors prepare for their big showdown with Amity, while Oregon and Oregon State get set to perform their annual civil duties.
Only it's not 2002, it's 1976. And the injured Warrenton running back isn't Tyler McGrorty, it's Scott McGrorty.
And the opponent isn't the four-time defending state champion Amity Warriors - it's the three-time champion Regis Rams.
From the "history-really-does-repeat-itself" department, Warrenton's Nov. 19, 1976, semifinal meeting with Regis has quite a bit in common with this year's semifinal match against Amity Saturday at West Salem High School (3 p.m., KSWB 840 AM).
Amity is in its first year under head coach Joel Magill, while the Regis team of '76 was under first-year coach Dave Nord.
For Warrenton, the times have changed, even if a few of the names haven't.
As it was in 1976, Mattila is still the coach, the Warriors have a Dyer (Tom) and a McGrorty (Scott) on the roster. And Warrenton is going up against a school that has a lengthy win streak on the line.
Forgive Mattila if the details are a little fuzzy - it's been 26 years, after all.
"I don't know - I can't remember that far back," said the coach, as he tried to recall the battle with the Rams back in '76.
Mattila was in just his third year with the Warriors, and was making his first state playoff appearance.
"At that time, we were just getting the program going, and the school had never won a league championship, much less been in the state playoffs," he said. "We were just real pleased to be where we were."
Warrenton was coming off a 20-12 quarterfinal win over Harrisburg.
The quarterback was Kevin Gramson, and the big star of the offense was Scott McGrorty - whose sons Dusty and Tyler have since passed through the Warrenton program - all wearing No. 44. Tyler will miss Saturday's game with a broken leg.
TEAM SCORESWARRENTON (11-0)
34 at Glencoe 6
33 at Kennedy 21
42 at Neah-Kah-Nie 10
34 Gaston 8
47 at Vernonia 13
44 at Clatskanie 14
43 Portland Christian 12
54 Corbett 26
47 Knappa 20
8 Weston-McEwen 0
30 at Reedsport 6
37 Harrisburg 0
49 Heppner 0
56 Willamina 0
49 at Santiam Christian 7
46 Gaston 0
56 at Santiam 0
60 at Sheridan 0
41 Nestucca 0
22 at Dayton 21
24 Bonanza 0
13 at Regis 12Some things never change, however, as it was the Warrenton defense that put the Warriors on the board first.
"We threw Regis for a safety on the first possession (Warrenton's Dave Searle tackled Regis quarterback Larry Keudell in the end zone), and defensed them very well," Mattila said. "They had some excellent athletes. They had a Lulay at quarterback, and he was an all-American at Western Oregon, and another one was a running back ... they had some outstanding college athletes on that team, and a lot of depth."
To be exact, Regis had six Lulays in the starting lineup, including running back Leonard Lulay, who scored a pair of late touchdowns in the 40-23 Regis victory, extending the Rams' win streak to 19 straight. Regis went on to win the state championship, adding another title in 1977.
"We were playing 12 or 13 kids and we led the whole game," Mattila recalls. "And they had to score two or three touchdowns in the last five minutes to win it, and they did. We just wore out."
Gramson was playing with a broken finger, as was McGrorty, the Warriors' starting tailback.
Still, McGrorty rushed for 85 yards on 24 carries, as Warrenton built a 17-6 lead in the first half.
"We were a little intimidated going in, but I know we were all ready to play," McGrorty says, 26 years later. "We had practiced well all week, and we thought we could win it - especially since we were at home.
"We were a good team - we probably should have won it that year," he said. "I just remember we were ahead by quite a bit at halftime, and they came back and beat us. Those guys just came out throwing the ball in the second half and beat our DBs."
To this day, the Regis-Warrenton matchup of 1976 had the largest crowd to ever see a Warrior home game - more than 3,000 fans.
"There were so many fans at that game, it was unbelievable," McGrorty said. "They were wrapped all the way around the field, from one end zone to the other. It was probably the biggest crowd they've ever had. I've been working the chains at all the home games since Dusty was there, and I've never seen that many fans there."
Saturday's semifinal against Amity promises to be another marquee matchup for fans around the state. Myrtle Point and Dayton will open the doubleheader at West Salem High School at noon, followed by Amity-Warrenton at 3 p.m.
It won't be Warrenton's first playoff meeting with the Warriors of the Valley. Amity (11-0) and Warrenton (11-0) met in the 1998 quarterfinals, when the two teams were the only two unbeaten teams left at the 2A level - much as they are now.
"They beat us on a last second pass that year," Mattila said. "That was Dusty McGrorty's senior year, and they went on to win the state championship, and that was the start of their string.
"It's a different coach and different kids, but it's the same program," he said. "We look forward to getting the opportunity to see if we can even that up."
Taking nothing away from Warrenton's opponents in the first two rounds, Amity is playing at an entirely different level.
Amity - which has won 44 games in a row - has posted eight shutout wins this season, including a 37-0 victory over Harrisburg and a 49-0 win over Heppner - both playoff teams.
"We certainly can't have the penalties that we had last week," said Mattila, referring to the 16 penalties for 108 yards in the 30-6 win over Reedsport. "And we had four fumbles and lost two, but considering the day, Reedsport had six fumbles and lost three, so it kind of evened out. Unless both teams do the same thing, you can't afford to do that."
Technically, Warrenton will be the home team - even though it's nearly a three-hour trip for the coastal Warriors, and a 30-minute jaunt for Amity.
Said Mattila, "the field's the same size on the road as it is at home."