Antelopes stymie Rockets to claim playoff victory

The Adrian Antelopes translated a solid running game and tough defense into a 26-8 win over Pilot Rock/Nixyaaii last week in a first-round playoff game last week. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ADRIAN – An epic third-quarter goal line stand coupled with a strong offense and stingy defense helped the Adrian/Jordan Valley Antelopes beat Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii 26-8 in a first-round Class 1A playoff game Friday in Adrian.

Antelope quarterback Conley Martin paced the Adrian attack with nearly 260 yards in the air while teammate Wade Bond piled up 122 yards on 19 carries in a game that was tight until the third quarter.

Just a week before, Adrian trampled the Rockets 52-14 in a district contest in La Grande.

The Rocket squad that stepped onto the field in Adrian Friday, though, wasn’t the same team.

Instead, Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii came out firing on all cylinders and used a hurry-up offense for an eight-play drive that led to a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty.

“They adjusted really well from last week and the hurry up, that was a new wrinkle,” said Antelope defensive coach Bryce Kershner.

The opening drive and the touchdown that was called back – the first of two scores nullified by penalties – haunted the Rockets and typified their performance.

Several times the Rockets put together strong drives only to see them sputter.

“That killed us,” said Rocket Coach Mike Baleztena.

The critical sequence in the game, though, came in the third stanza with the Antelopes holding a 14-8 edge. A pass interception by the Rockets gave the visiting team possession on the Adrian 19-yard line.

The Rockets used eight plays to penetrate to the Antelope 2-yard line but faced fourth and goal. That’s when the Antelope defense stuffed a run, ending the threat and forcing a turnover on downs.

 “The goal line stand was huge,” said Adrian Coach Billy Wortman.

The momentum from the defensive stand carried over into the rest of the game as Adrian went ahead 20-8 on Zeke Quintero’s 77-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter. The Rockets pushed to the Adrian 11 on their next possession but stalled and Bond’s touchdown with 2:50 remaining in the game put the Antelopes ahead 26-8 for the victory.

Wortman said he wasn’t surprised by Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii’s performance.

After a scoreless first quarter the Antelopes drew first blood when Martin hooked up with Kort Skinner for a touchdown at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter. The point-after pass was good and Adrian was ahead 8-0.

The Rockets, though, came right back, and knotted the contest 8-8 midway through the second quarter.

Skinner’s second touchdown reception – with just 32 seconds left in the half – gave the Antelopes a 14-8 advantage.

Kershner said the Rockets “gave us their best shot in the first half. And I figured they’d be ready. But we adjusted well on defense.” Adrian (7-3) will now move on to play undefeated Hosanna Christian Friday at noon Pacific time in Klamath Falls in a second round Class 1A playoff game.

The No. 4-ranked Hosanna Christian (8-0) rolled over Riddle last week, 56-30. 

The Antelopes are ranked fifth by the Oregon School Activities Association.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.