Perpetual underdog Dallas achieves unforeseen heights

The Dragons have done the impossible and now they face the improbable.

The Dallas High School football team did what no one thought they could in defeating No. 1 seed and defending state champion Summit on the road in Bend on Friday, in the biggest upset in this year’s OSAA Class 5A state playoffs.

And with that win, the team has now earned a spot in the state semifinals for the first time since 1988.

“It was intense, but we had a huge crowd there,” fifth-year Dallas coach Tracy Jackson said. “It was so loud and so intense on our sideline, not because of our sideline, but because of the people behind us.

“It was great that we beat the team that won a state championship last year, but more than that the community. It was one of those great moments that keeps old dudes like me keep doing this.”

Dallas' Caedmon Blair (7) tosses the ball to Tanner Earhart (24) in a game against Central on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, at Central High School in Independence. Central won the game 21-20.

Dallas’ Caedmon Blair (7) tosses the ball to Tanner Earhart (24) in a game against Central on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, at Central High School in Independence. Central won the game 21-20.

No. 8 seed Dallas (9-2) advances to play No. 4 seed Lebanon (10-1) at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium in the OSAA Class 5A state semifinals.

It’s a rematch of the final game of the Mid-Willamette Conference season, which Lebanon won 28-10 to earn the outright league championship.

“They’re going to be a handful, and they’re tough,” Jackson said. “They’re kind of mean and I think you got to be kind of mean to play football. I’m still believing in my guys. Honestly I’m up for it, and I think my kids are up for it.”

The challenge for Dallas against Summit was the Storm’s stout air attack behind the strong arm of senior quarterback John Bledsoe and under the guidance of former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the team’s offensive coordinator.

Though it seems an imposing task – and a task few thought Dallas was capable of accomplishing – Dallas does something that is hard to defend: Run the football.

The Dragons sped out to a 14-0 lead – on a one-yard touchdown run by Tanner Earhart and a blocked punt return by Evan Courtney – but Summit came storming back for 28 straight points.

After Dallas finally broke through with Earhart running for his second touchdown of the game, kicker Aaron White recovered his own onside kickoff and with three minutes left quarterback Caedmon Blair ran for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 28-27.

Of course Dallas went for two and Blair ran for the two-point conversion.

“We came here to win,” Jackson said. “I know that that sounds like a lot of bravado, we really believed we were going to win. I was kind of like, of course we were going to go for it.”

Even though Dallas passes the ball one to two times per game out of their double tight end single wing offense, the Dragons have been playing in 7 on 7 passing leagues for years for exactly the situation they faced late in the game.

White intercepted a late pass to help Dallas seal the win.

“We were playing cover four on top, when I looked at those four guys I knew we were going to be okay,” Jackson said. “Those four guys were all seniors. I was like, win or lose, we got our best dudes out there. We have confidence they’re going to compete.”

Of the four teams in the state semifinals, four of them – Central, Dallas and Lebanon – are from the Mid-Willamette Conference.

So of course once Dallas makes its deepest run into the state playoffs in decades it would play a team it did three weeks earlier.

“I remember (Silverton coach) John Mannion and I talking about this halfway through the season, our conference, it is a gauntlet,” Jackson said. “If you turn your head at the wrong time you’re going to lose a game.

“It’s hard to beat a good team twice, and I think we’re a good team.”, 503-399-6701 or

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