Adrian/Jordan Valley’s Wes Bayes celebrates moments after the Class 1A football state championship game Saturday. Adrian/Jordan Valley defeated St. Paul 38-32 to claim its first state title since 2014. (For the Enterprise/Angie Silonis)
HERMISTON – The play is called “Bubble Gum” and Saturday afternoon it won a state football championship for Adrian/Jordan Valley.
With one minute and thirty-nine seconds to go in the Antelopes Class 1A game against St. Paul, Adrian faced a 32-30 deficit and had the ball on its own 20-yard line.
A season’s worth of pain, sacrifice and high hopes dangled in the balance for Adrian/Jordan Valley (13-0) and the promised land – the end zone – stood 80 yards away.
Before they stepped back out onto the field to take possession, the Adrian/Jordan Valley coaches and players discussed strategy on the sideline.
“We felt we had time to run the ball,” said Adrian/Jordan Valley coach Billy Wortman.
The coaches decided to take a long shot on first down. So, they called the pass play “Bubble Gum.”
The coaches told Adrian/Jordan Valley sophomore quarterback Conley Martin that “if he was to miss, to miss long,” said Wortman.
“We had had some success with a bubble screen to Wade (Bond) out of our loaded formation. We used Wade as a check down and sent Michael (Babcock) over the top,” Wortman said. The play worked perfectly.
Bond and Babcock lined up on the left side and then the ball was snapped.
Martin rolled out of the pocket, looked for Bond. He was covered. Then Martin saw Babcock suddenly running free behind the St. Paul defense.
“He was open right off the bat. I looked back up and he flew by and I let him go get it,” said Martin of his throw.
“He put it right in my hands,” said Babcock.
Babcock then sprinted 80 yards for the touchdown to give Adrian/Jordan Valley a 38-32 lead that was
enough to clinch the win and its first championship since 2014. Adrian and Jordan Valley once played independent schedules but the two football programs merged in 2017.
The late-game heroics capped an epic eight-man football contest where two undefeated teams battled for supremacy. Despite numerous trips into the red zone, the usually proficient Adrian/Jordan Valley offense struggled to score while St. Paul – a perennial eight-man power – built sizeable leads in the third and fourth quarters.
Wortman said his team just wouldn’t surrender.
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“I truly believe our team’s unwillingness to quit was the key. We could have given up being down 10 in the fourth, but we continued to play with confidence, and it worked out in the end,” said Wortman.
Martin said the Lopes didn’t panic.
“We kept our heads straight. We knew we couldn’t get riled up,” said Martin. Wortman said a ten-point, fourth-quarter deficit was a wakeup call for his team.
“I believe that is when reality set in for us coaches and players that we better start playing our brand of football,” said Wortman.
St. Paul (12-1) went ahead 32-22 when Saul Martinez capped a seven-play, 61-yard drive with his three-yard scoring jaunt with 7:51 to go in the fourth quarter.
Adrian/Jordan Valley, though, came right back going 67 yards in 11 plays to pull within 32-30 with 4:50 to go in the game.
Adrian/Jordan Valley forced St. Paul to punt on its next possession, setting up the decisive touchdown scoring strike from Conley to Babcock moments later.
Wortman said a come-from-behind sequence in the third quarter was also crucial for Adrian/Jordan Valley.
St. Paul broke a 14-14 tie at halftime by producing two scores in the third stanza for a seemingly commanding 26-14 advantage. The Antelopes slashed the margin to 26-22 on Martin’s 10-yard run and subsequent point-after scamper with three seconds left in the third frame.
“Being down 26-14 in the third was a situation that really tested the confidence of our players. The drive to end the third quarter and get to the two-point conversion to bring the game within four was a key confidence booster,” said Wortman.
St. Paul – which finished the game with 347 total yards on offense – held a 14-6 lead late in the second quarter but Martin’s 23-yard scoring run and successful point after-attempt knotted the contest 14-14 with 2:27 to go before halftime.
Martin amassed 201 rushing yards and four touchdowns and was 13 of 22 for 237 yards passing and tossed the game-winning score.
“It was a fun game. It is fun playing games like that,” said Martin.
Bond ended the day with seven catches for 106 yards while Babcock hauled in three passes for 103 yards.
TJ Crawford paced the Buckaroos on the ground with 169 yards on 30 carries.
“They were a great team all around,” said Martin of St. Paul. “They had a lot of great athletes.”
Wortman said St. Paul’s defense created problems for Adrian/Jordan Valley’s high-octane offense.
“We really struggled to score. St. Paul really made it difficult to score in the red zone. I believe we made seven trips to the red zone and only walked away with three touchdowns,” said Wortman.
St. Paul used effective blitz packages to shut down Adrian/Jordan Valley’s run option.
“We could not trap block their ends,” said Wortman.
Despite the close game, Adrian/Jordan Valley generated 523 yards of offense during the title contest and ran more offensive plays (76 to St. Paul’s 60) and logged 24 first downs to St. Paul’s 18.
Kort Skinner and Martin led the Adrian/Jordan Valley defense. Martin recorded 10 solo tackles while Skinner had nine.
Wortman said the win was huge for the two small, southeastern Oregon towns.
“The victory means so much to both communities. It has been a season that will be talked about for years to come,” said Wortman. Babcock said he was confident his team would prevail, but he said it wasn’t easy.
“That game was a battle,” he said.
Kort Skinner catches a pass the 1A football state title game on Saturday, Nov. 30, in Hermiston. Adrian/Jordan Valley beat St. Paul 38-32. (Angie Sillonis/Special to the Enterprise)
News tip? Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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