Baker’s Justin Miller grapples Ontario quarterback Kenji Teramura to the ground during first-half action Friday night in Ontario. The Tigers posted a 35-21 league win. (The Enterprise / Jayme Fraser)

ONTARIO – In some ways the 2018 Ontario varsity football team is a paradox.

Flashes of brilliance during the season illuminate a team with offensive power and a stingy defense. When the Tiger machine hits on all cylinders, it is nearly unstoppable.

When one cog in the machine is off, however, the Tigers descend from the lofty heights of prep football excellence to the land of the average.

Two weeks ago in La Grande, the Tigers emerged battered and bruised from a defeat that head coach Erik Johnson described as being “taken to the woodshed.” La Grande pummeled the Tigers 49-12 and Johnson was clear that the loss could be the key plot point in the Tigers’ season.

Last Friday night, however, after Ontario held back a tough Baker squad and posted a 35-21 win, the normally subdued Johnson allowed just the crack of a grin as he reviewed the contest.

“We needed this win. We had to get over last week,” said Johnson, clearly satisfied with how his team responded to Baker’s Bulldogs.

When asked about the key to Ontario’s victory, Baker coach David Johnson reply was succinct.

“I’d say the quarterback,” he said.

In a game marked by momentum shifts, Tiger quarterback Kenji Teramura threw for 152 yards, tossed one touchdown and ran for another as Ontario managed to put a leash on the resilient Bulldogs.

Ontario’s Jose Flores piled up 78 yards and scored one touchdown for Ontario while teammate Brandon Rodriguez led the Ontario ground attack with 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Ontario offensive lineman Joe Lopez said Baker tested the Tigers but attributed the win to a one factor.

“We have a lot of leaders,” he said.

Baker (3-4) wasn’t intimidated although the Bulldogs were down early and encountered challenges getting their offense going.

Twice the Bulldogs closed within striking distance of Ontario, first in the second quarter and again late in the game. Each time, though, Ontario answered.

“It was a good team win,” said Johnson.

 Ontario built a 21-7 advantage by halftime but the Bulldogs cut the lead to 21-14 early in the final stanza.

The Tigers responded with a quick five-play drive to go ahead 28-14 on Flores’ 49-yard touchdown run.

Gabe Gambleton’s 23-yard pass to Spencer Smith pulled Baker to 29-21 with 2:51 left in the game. Baker’s onside kick after the score failed, and Ontario sealed the win on a 1-yard jaunt by Teramura with 1:40 to go.

Baker played well, “but our defense came up big and didn’t break,” said Johnson.

After Ontario went ahead 13-0 on Teramura’s 2-yard touchdown toss to Lucius Hartzell at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter, the Bulldogs slashed the deficit to 13-7 when Gambleton hooked up with Smith on a 5-yard pass with 6:48 to go before intermission. Rodriguez pushed the home team out in front 21-7 just before halftime.

The Tigers had a scare late in the game when sophomore defensive back Marcos Grijalva was injured and carted off the field on a gurney.

Johnson said Monday Grijalva was transported to Saint Alphonsus Medica Center in Ontario treated and later released.

After the game, Tiger tight end Dallon Haueter summed up his team’s performance.

“This is a good win. We stepped up at the end of the first half,” said Haueter.

The Tigers will face Mac-Hi in Milton-Freewater at 7 p.m. Friday for their final league game of the season.

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