LA GRANDE – Playing in a physical matchup came at a perfect time for the Dufur Rangers.
On a rain-soaked turf field at Community Stadium, the No. 1 Rangers used second-half touchdowns by Tanner Masterson and Asa Farrell to defeat Wallowa, 22-12, in an eight-man Special District 3 crossover championship Friday in La Grande.
“It was a good test for us to play a good football team like Wallowa,” Dufur senior Abraham Kilby said. “Whenever you are physically challenged, you get to see what this team is made of. We accepted the challenge and overcame a lot of adversity to get this win tonight.”
The win, Dufur’s 29th consecutive, vaulted the team from No. 5 in the rankings up to No. 1 ahead of this week’s state playoff opener scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday versus Bonanza.
The turning point of the game came early in the second half, as Masterson scooped up the kickoff and raced 85 yards to the end zone, breaking what was a 6-6 tie.
With Dufur ahead, 14-6, early in the third quarter, Wallowa fumbled on its opening possession, which put the ball in a prime spot for another touchdown.
Farrell eventually punched in a one-yard plunge and Derek Frakes tacked on the conversion run to make it 22-6.
At the 1:39 mark of the fourth quarter, Wallowa got on the scoreboard following a 48-yard scoring run from Zeb Ramsden, but could not convert the extra, which made it 22-12.
The Cougars then attempted an onside kick, which the Rangers recovered, allowing them to run out the clock.
“We got on our kids about the way they played in the first half,” Dufur head coach Jack Henderson said. “We did not come out with the intensity and focus we needed. I saw a lot more fire from them in the second half and it started with the defense. They matched that physical play and our offense carried it over.”
Farrell gave the Rangers a 6-0 lead after a one-yard run at the 11:55 mark of the second quarter and held strong on that lead until a 26-yard pass from Gus Ramsden to Zeb Ramsden came with three minutes left to tie the score at 6-apiece.
In all, Dufur put up 248 yards of offense on 58 plays, 156 on the ground.
Farrell rushed 18 times for 96 yards and his two scores, Masterson added 14 attempts for 40 yards, and Abraham Kilby totaled 10 yards on two carries.
Frakes completed 4 of 8 passes for 88 yards with an interception and he scrambled 11 times for 13 yards.
Cooper Bales had 32 yards receiving on two grabs, Masterson added 33 yards on one catch, Farrell hit for 10 yards on one reception, and Kortge hauled in four balls for 13 yards.
“Our offense struggled at times, but did just enough to score some points,” Henderson said. “Even when our offense was struggling a little bit, the defense played very well.”
Wallowa, who hosts Falls City at 6 p.m. Friday, had 361 yards, 210 rushing and went 3 of 9 on third downs.
The Rangers recovered three fumbles and Kilby added a pair of sacks to his four tackles.
Kaleb Pence posted nine tackles and a forced fumble, while Farrell ended up with nine tackles.
Masterson forced a fumble and tallied eight tackles, Kortge secured an interception to go with four tackles, and Bales recovered a fumble and notched five tackles.
As the No. 1 seed, Dufur is on the upper part of the playoff bracket with Bonanza, Elkton, Camas Valley, Pilot Rock, Adrian, Riddle and Hosanna Christian.
In the bottom bracket are Elgin, St. Paul, North Douglas, Crane, Imbler, Lowell, Falls City and Wallowa.
Back in the big dance again, Kilby and his senior teammates have a chance to win a fourth straight state championship.
He is not overlooking any opponents, however, Bonanza is coming in with upset on its mind.
“This is the biggest time of the year and we are ready to play our hearts out to see if we can win another championship,” Kilby said. “We will take it one game at a time and try to play our best from here on out. I am excited, and I know my teammates are excited for these next few games.”
Radio station KYYT 102.3 FM will broadcast the game live at 6 p.m. Friday.