INDEPENCENCE — This is a familiar situation for a football team from Central High School.
A talented roster of players came together and won their way into the state semifinals.
But they’ve done it in a different way so far and at a higher level than before.
Central defeated Redmond 42-36 at home Friday night in the quarterfinals of the OSAA Class 5A state playoffs.
Getting past the quarterfinals – the Panthers were in that round in 2013 and 2015 – was a big step, but the true test awaits.
“We got to ignore the pressure,” said senior receiver Peter Mason, who caught six passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. “We got to understand that it’s a big deal to have this honor to keep playing while more than half the teams in the state are going out each day and that we’re the lucky ones that we get to come back next week and keep playing.
“Since my freshman year we’ve gotten to this game and we haven’t been able to clear this game. Just to be able to get to semifinals for me was a great honor, and it’s really great to come out here with all these guys and go to war.”
This will be Central’s fifth state semifinal appearance (2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011) under 16th-year head coach Shane Hedrick.
The Panthers are 0-4 in those past four semifinal games, and their last state championship game appearance was 1998.
“Well, coach better,” Hedrick joked about what it will take to win in the semifinals. “Over the past years there was always that Sherwood that was going up or it was a Marist that was going up. Now it’s not that, and then Grant’s senior year we were playing a loaded Marist, but that was in the quarterfinals. We lost to them by eight and they beat everybody else by 45 points.
“We’re just going to enjoy tonight and then come back tomorrow, coach it up and see what we can do.”
And this will be the school’s first semifinal appearance at the 5A level.
No. 11 seed Central (7-4) plays in the Nov. 18 state semifinal round to play No. 2 seed Wilsonville (10-1) at a site to be determined.
“I think we’re like an 11 seed and final four,” said junior quarterback Peter Mendazona, who was 22 for 30 passing for 396 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for another against Redmond. “I think people’s eyebrows are raised on that, definitely.”
Considering the expectations on Central at the beginning of the season, a deep playoff run was not beyond the imaginations of many.
Led by senior defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu and nearly every skill position player on a team that
Central won a league championship in 2015, the Panthers have finally lived up to that hype.
“It feels great,” said Tuipulotu, who had seven tackles with two for loss. “The last time we’ve done it at Central was like a while back so it feels good to finally make it to the semis and hopefully we can move on, but we just got to focus on week by week.”
That Central has won its way through the first two rounds of the 5A state playoffs is of no particular surprise considering the team had a myriad of injuries, but is finally is at full strength.
And they’re going to need every bit of that against Wilsonville.
“I’m going to tell our kids that let’s keep finishing and have a good week of practice and enjoy the ride,” Hedrick said. “At the end of the day you want to have fun with them, and you don’t want to get so tense and not play your game.
“Right now we’re playing well, we’re executing, we’re making big plays, and we want to continue to do that.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler
Central 42, Redmond 36
RED 14 0 14 8-36
CEN 14 7 7 14-42
CEN: Peter Mason 32 pass from Peter Mendazona (Tony Rincon kick) 9:31.
RED: Jack Taylor 6 run (Brian Lopez kick) 8:24.
CEN: Aaron Shinkle 72 pass from Mendazona (Rincon kick) 7:30.
RED: Cooger Smith 4 run (Lopez kick) 5:36.
CEN: Will Cable 2 pass from Mendazona (Rincon kick) :29.
RED: Smith 2 run (Lopez kick) 8:34.
CEN: Mason 32 pass from Mendazona (Rincon kick) 7:09.
RED: Taylor 40 run (Lopez kick) 1:13.
CEN: Andrew Barry 28 pass from Mendazona (Rincon kick) 10:16.
CEN: Mendazona 1 run (Rincon kick) 6:51.
RED: Smith 1 run (Bunker Parrish run) 3:17.