Ontario quarterback Kenji Teramura runs the ball down field during the action Friday night against La Grande as Joe Lopez sets up to provide pass protection. The Tigers defeated La Grande 35-14 in the league opener for both teams. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)
ONTARIO – He stood at the north end of the field with his hands on his hips, his face still shiny with sweat, and squinted into the stadium lights.
“Coach always told me to trust my line. So, I followed his rules,” said Jose Flores, Ontario High School varsity football running back.
Flores was talking specifically about his 55-yard scoring run with barely three minutes left in the contest against La Grande Friday night that sealed a 35-14 league victory.
He just as easily, though, could have been describing his performance and that of his teammates in a game that showcased odd momentum changes and a Tiger team that is improving each week.
The loss exposed La Grande’s relative inexperience and the importance of retaining momentum.
After it watched the Tigers build a 21-0 lead by halftime, La Grande took advantage of an interception and a blocked punt to cut the Tiger lead to 21-14 with 2:59 to go in the third quarter
Then the momentum shifted, when Brandon Rodriguez pushed the Tigers out in front 28-14 on his touchdown run at the 11:32 mark of the fourth quarter.
La Grande never threated again.
“I think we went flat and lost our intensity,” said La Grande Coach Rich Mcllmoil.
Flores spearheaded the Tiger run game, finishing with 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns. At times Ontario appeared to be unstoppable.
Tiger Coach Erik Johnson lauded the performance of his offense but said the victory was partly a result of the Ontario defense.
“That was one thing that stood out to me was the way our defense was flying around,” said Johnson.
The Tigers held La Grande to 106 yards on the ground. Most of those yards came in the second half.
Ontario seemingly took control early on Flores score late in the first quarter that put the Tigers out in front 6-0. Kenji Teramura’s 13-yard touchdown toss to Dallon Haueter with 5:14 left in the second quarter gave Ontario at 14-0 advantage and Teramura put the exclamation point on the first half for Ontario with a 4-yard run and a 21-0 Ontario advantage just before the end of the second period.
“We came out flat. I told them Ontario is always good. And they were running the ball well,” said Mcllmoil.
Mcllmoil said he made several adjustments during intermission, including an emphasis on stopping Ontario’s running attack, and La Grande used the interception early in the third quarter to set up its first score. A 26-yard toss from Parker Robinson to Blaine Shaw with 9:19 to go in the stanza cut the Ontario lead to 21-7. Zach Wiggins’ 40-yard return of a blocked punt put La Grande within seven – 21-14 with 2:59 to go in the third frame.
Flores’ final touchdown run came on a third and 12 and he broke several tackles to reach the end zone.
Johnson praised the Tiger offensive line.
“It makes things a lot nicer when you have that kind of foundation,” said Johnson.
No one had to remind Flores of that fact.
“It felt good. It was like my best day on varsity,” said Flores.
Ontario will face Baker Friday night at 7 p.m. Pacific Time. The Bulldogs are 2-1 overall on the season.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.