Kenji Teramura pulls the trigger on a pass during first-half action Friday night against Mac-Hi at Ontario High School. Teramura finished the night with 132 yards rushing and threw three touchdowns. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).
ONTARIO – Victory is about the details and Friday night as the yellow shadows from the scoreboard sliced across the face of Ontario football coach Erik Johnson it was the little things from the game against Mac-Hi that endured.
Lost opportunities. A slow start on offense. Penalties. Missed assignments.
Still, it was a 41-6 Tiger win and there is a growing sense this season may be as special for the Tigers as past grid playoff crusades.
And while he was pleased with the win – which gives Ontario a 3-0 league mark – Johnson had a feeling of dissatisfaction.
“We battled through and got the win,” said Johnson.
The understated comment left a lot unsaid and Johnson wasn’t disposed to start dissecting the contest even as parents and students congregated on the grass. He would, he said, wait to look at the film but he made it clear that a team he believes in and believes is packed with talent should have scored more points and never allowed Mac-Hi a touchdown.
Johnson makes no secret that he sets a high standard for his team. When fans see a good football team, Johnson knows in his heart the team can be great. When fans watch a run play go for a first down, Johnson sees to potential for 20 yards.
So, Friday night, even as the glare from the lights flickered across his bearded face, Johnson was a typical kind of coach that expects championships. He did not see 41 points. He saw 48 or 55 or even 62 points that invariably slipped away.
He focused on the details. The little things.
In the big things department, the Tigers turned in impressive performances.
Kenji Teramura led the Tiger attack with 132 yards rushing and tossed three touchdowns – including two to Dallon Haueter.
But on a night when the Ontario offense struggled to get untracked early on, its defense saved the day.
“Our defense has been opportunistic. They would get a push here and there and our red zone defense stepped up,” said Johnson.
The best example of Ontario’s brand of resourceful defense came near the end of the first quarter. With 34 seconds to go in the first quarter, Seth Forstyth picked off a pass and ran it back 41 yards to score.
Forstyth’s pick helped energize the Tiger offense. Ontario scored twice in the second stanza – first on a six-yard run by Jose Flores and then Teramura hooked up with Haueter on a 28-yard touchdown toss – for a 21-0 lead at the half.
The Tigers opened the second half with a quick scoring drive – capped by Haueter’s 58-yard touchdown pass from Teramura – to go ahead 28-0. Haueter, Forstyth and Colton Seal all scored touchdowns later in the second half to seal the victory.
Mac-Hi’s lone score came on Keiz White’s 1-yard dive late in the third quarter.
After the game, Haueter did not quite reflect his coach’s discontent but he seemed to agree that he and his teammates expected and wanted more points on the scoreboard.
“We were persistent, we didn’t stop. But there are things we can sure improve,” said Haueter.
Haueter said other teams in the Greater Oregon League recognize Ontario’s prowess and put together their best game when they face the Tigers.
“Everyone is trying to knock us off. We expect it and know they will be ready,” said Haueter.
The details, though, floated in front of Johnson after the game. He pointed to time of possession as one key detail that worried him. Mac-Hi held the ball for almost 25 minutes during the contest while Ontario held the offensive reins for just over 13 minutes.
“It shouldn’t be like that,” said Johnson.
Another stat that troubled Johnson was third-down conversions. Mac-Hi was five of six on such conversions.
“We’ve got to get more stops on third down,” said Johnson. “And we have to do a better job in the passing game.”
Ontario finished the night with 293 rushing yards – paced by Flores 97 yards on 15 carries – while the Pioneers amassed 196 total yards.
Thursday night Ontario travels to the Grand Ronde Valley to take on league opponent La Grande.
As familiar opponents, Johnson said the game will most likely come down to one key.
“It will be who handles the adjustments better. They are really playing well,” said Johnson.
Johnson he feels his team has the ingredients to be a championship team.
“We have the potential,” he said.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.