Adrian runs roughshod over Crane, clinches trip to state final game against St. Paul

The Adrian defense stops Crane running back Chase Joyce (No. 11). (For the Enterprise/Geary Johnson).

HERMISTON – Michael Babcock scored five touchdowns and Conley Martin threw for 261 yards and tossed three scores Saturday to help lift Adrian/Jordan Valley past Crane 74-18 and put the Antelopes in the state football title game for the first time since 2014.

“Obviously Michael and Conley had monster games. Crane is a team that never gives up. It is very difficult to close the door on that team,” said Adrian/Jordan Valley coach Billy Wortman.

The Antelopes will face undefeated and perennial eight-man powerhouse St. Paul (12-0) for the state championship Saturday in Hermiston at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

Adrian/Jordan Valley and Crane combined for 993 yards of offense and the Mustangs jumped out to an early lead before Adrian/Jordan Valley exploded for five touchdowns in the first half for a commanding 38-6 lead at intermission.

Chase Joyce paced the Mustangs with 198 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns.

Joyce’s 78-yard touchdown run just minutes into the game gave Crane a 6-0 edge.

“We were aware of how good a running back Chase Joyce is. He broke a tackle and made a nice run. Our players responded very well,” said Wortman.

Adrian’s offense exploded in the first half to clinch the win over Crane Saturday in a semifinal eight-man football game. (For the Enterprise/Susan Barton).

The Antelopes responded by squashing the Crane offense and grinding up yards and touchdowns in a spectacular display of offensive firepower.

Martin’s three-yard touchdown run with 5:13 to go in the first stanza capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive and put Adrian ahead 8-6. Late in the first quarter, Martin hooked up with Babcock on a 97-yard touchdown pass to give the Antelopes a 16-6 advantage.

Adrian added three touchdowns in the second quarter – including a 65-yard interception return by Wade Bond – and then put the game on ice early in the third stanza on Martin’s six-yard run and a 44-6 lead.

A key part of the Adrian win Wortman said was the ability of the Antelope offensive line to handle pressure from Crane’s middle linebacker.

Crane scored twice in the second half. Glen Starbuck hit Rixon Doman on a 35-yard pass late in the third quarter and Joyce’s 58-yard scoring jaunt cut the Adrian lead to 52-18 at the 8:34 mark of the third quarter.

Adrian (12-0) collected touchdowns from Kort Skinner, Babcock and Jace Martin to close out the second half.

Babcock ended the day with 244 yards receiving on five catches.

The Mustangs held the ball for more than 27 minutes during the semifinal contest while Adrian’s time of possession was 19:40 but in the end, it didn’t matter. The Antelopes quick-strike offense just overpowered Crane.

Adrian’s defense had a good day as Logan Vickers, Wes Bayes, Sebastian Munoz and Clay Ready each recorded a sack and the Antelope offense was perfect in the red zone, going five-for-five for the game.

Adrian also competed well on third-down conversions. The Antelopes finished the day eight-of-11 on third-down conversions while Crane converted one of 10.

Wortman said his team is eager to play St. Paul.

“We are excited to be in a position to play a team of this caliber. We are excited for the match up,” said Wortman.

In the modern era, St. Paul has won two state titles in eight-man football – one in 2009 and another in 2010.

This year the top-ranked Buckaroos outscored their opponents 752-140. St. Paul’s closest game of the season was Saturday where the Buckaroos defeated Camas Valley 46-26 to earn a title shot. T.J. Crawford led the Buckaroos with 208 yards rushing on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns.

St. Paul coach Tony Smith said the Buckaroos and Adrian have been on a “collision course” all year.

“Their quarterback is very good, they have good receivers that can catch the ball,“ said Smith.

St. Paul has won six state titles and Saturday’s contest will be the 14th time the Buckaroos have played for the championship crown.

“When you get to this point in the season you have to be able to run and throw it. You have to be able to defend both of those things. I think both us and Adrian can run and throw the ball and we have multiple weapons,“ said Smith.

Adrian and Jordan Valley merged in 2017. Three times a week, four Jordan Valley athletes jump on a bus operated by Bryce Kershner, assistant coach and rancher, drive to Adrian for practice.

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

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING — For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.