One big play doesn’t make a game, but a play changed the tide of Saturday’s OSAA Class 1A state championship.
St. Paul High School’s football team clawed its way back into the game against Camas Valley, but with 6:24 to go in the third, St. Paul senior running back Cole Weisz fumbled the ball attempting to run up the middle, and Camas Valley’s Weston Tilton returned it 43 yards to the 7-yard line.
Weisz, the 6-foot, 200-pound bruiser, injured his ankle on the play, had to be helped off the field, didn’t return to the game and the Buckaroos lost 24-8 at Cottage Grove High School.
“It certainly hurts seeing Cole go out because he’s such an amazing player. But then again, we’re not a one-man team,” St. Paul senior quarterback Danny Drescher said. “We have amazing linemen, such as Parker (Schibel), Sean (Hernandez) and Zach (Adams), and amazing ends who can catch the ball.
“So we have so many other different points that we can attack from, but it hurts taking Cole out because he’s a big part of our team.”
St. Paul (11-1) had the ball in the red zone five times in the game and came away with points on one occasion. The Buckaroos also had a hard time stopping Camas Valley, which amassed 280 yards, including 159 yards on the ground.
“Our defensive ends have been doing a great job keeping everything inside, and our backers, they’ve been doing great tackling the backs out,” St. Paul sophomore Austin Weisz said. “We prepared good this year and couldn’t come out with the win.”
Camas Valley (13-0) wins its second-consecutive state championship and the sixth in school history.
Camas Valley quarterback Joshua Mattox didn’t have a great completion percentage — he was 6 for 15 — in the first half, but his completions were productive.
Mattox hit Joshua Garcia for a 14-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the game for a 6-0 lead, he hit Tilton for a 40-yard touchdown mid-way through the second quarter for a 12-0 halftime lead and he threw for 113 yards in the first half. But he also was intercepted three times, twice by Cody Southerland and once by Joe Torres.
St. Paul was held to 110 yards of offense, and Drescher was held to 1-for-6 passing in the first half.
“Camas comes out with a lot of intensity,” Drescher said. “They come out and they hit hard. A lot of teams come out, some guys are afraid of Cole Weisz, big dude. Camas came out and gang tackled him.
“They did a very good job on defense.”
At the start of the second half, St. Paul looked like a different team offensively.
The Buckaroos marched down the field in five plays and scored their only touchdown of the game when a Cody Merten block broke Austin Weisz free down the right side of the field for a 25-yard touchdown.
Drescher’s pass to Merten on the two-point conversion reduced Camas Valley’s lead to 12-8.
“We played really well on that drive and blocked better and we got back in it emotionally and were playing hard at that point,” St. Paul coach Tony Smith said, “and Cole gets dinged, that’s going to kind of take the wind out of your sails when that kid gets hurt.”
Camas Valley answered St. Paul on its ensuing drive as Josh Garcia scored a 5-yard touchdown.
Two plays into the next drive, Weisz was injured on the fumble.
Three plays after that, Eli Wolfe ran for a 5-yard touchdown and 24-8 advantage.
“That was pivotal,” Smith said. “When you lose that kid, a kid of that caliber, that’s a tough deal.
“The kids had a great season and played great to get here. And they were great people during the season and it was a lot of fun.”
Drescher was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter as the Buckaroos went to the air to try to move the ball down the field.
Drescher was 13-for-27 passing for 189 yards and two interceptions, and Cole Weisz rushed for 58 yards on 14 carries.
The Buckaroos’ senior class was in its third state championship game in four years, and St. Paul won state title game appearances in 2009 and 2010.
“I felt like we had a lot of momentum, and they certainly did things that brought us down. We did things that brought them down,” Drescher said.
CAMAS VALLEY 24, ST. PAUL 8
CV– Garcia 14 pass from Mattox (PAT failed) 8:56.
CV– Tilton 40 pass from Mattox (PAT failed) 7:32.
SP–Weisz 25 run (Merten pass from Drescher) 10:24.
CV– Garcia 5 run (PAT failed) 6:39.
CV– Wolfe 5 run (PAT failed) 4:55.
Rushing– St. Paul: C. Weisz 14-58, A. Weisz 11-38, Torres 2-10, Drescher 8-8. Camas Valley: Wolfe 20-86, Garcia 9-54, Mattox 8-12, Lindsey 2-8, Tilton 1-0, Melson 1-(-1).
Passing– St. Paul: Drescher 13-27-189-0-2. Camas Valley: Mattox 8-18-121-2-3.
Receiving– G. Merten 4-74, C. Merten 4-62, Torres 3-46, A. Weisz 2-7. Camas Valley: Garcia 5-63, Tilton 3-58.