The Columbia River Chieftains are league champions.
Led by a relentless defense and some strong second-half running, the Chieftains held off the Mountain View Thunder on Friday, winning 15-7 at McKenzie Stadium to complete a 5-0 season in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League.
Columbia River (6-3 overall) will host a bi-district playoff game next week.
One big pass play gave River the 6-0 lead at halftime, and the legs of Remick Kawawaki and Clayton Frank carried the load in the second half.
The Chieftains win avoided a tie-breaker in the league. They did it by limiting the Mountain View offense to one touchdown. The Thunder (5-4, 3-2), who lost their last two games, will be on the road for the bi-district playoff round next week.
The outcome wasn't certain until Columbia River's Clark Bryant intercepted a Luke DuChesne pass near midfield in the final minute. But the way the Columbia River defense played all night, even its one-possession lead seemed large enough.
"All the league games have been close games where we had to play right down to the end of those games," Columbia River coach John O'Rourke said. "Our kids really kept their poise in those situations."
The first-half points came on a 50-yard pass, but it was the feet of quarterback Frank that came up big in the second half. He cartwheeled into the end zone at the end of a 8-yard toucdhdown run in the third quarter that put his team on top 12-0. Later in the period, he made consecutive runs of 39 yards and 11 yards on the drive that led to a 23-yard field goal by Zach Perron that stretch the lead to eight points late in the third quarter.
That drive was River's response to the only big play of the night for the Mountain View offense, a 58-yard dash around the left side by Carl Falls for a touchdown that pulled the Thunder within 12-7 at the 5:20 mark of the third quarter.
After carrying ony twice for three yards in the first half, Kawawaki became a battering ram in the second as he and Frank kept the Thunder defense off balance. O'Rourke said his team's ability to pass effectively in the first half prevented the Thunder linebackers from focusing on stopping the run, which opened up running lanes for Kawawaki and Frank in the second half.
Kawawaki carried 17 times for 104 yards in the second half to finish with 107 yards on the night.
With Frank throwing for 173 yards and running for 131, the Chieftains finished with 410 yards of offense.
Mountain View, which battled injuries along the offensive line throughout the game and lost runnning back Austin Mace to injury on Falls' scoring run, netted 261 yards. Falls finished with a team-high 103 yards on 13 carries and DuChesne completed two passes for 30 yards.
O'Rourke praised the preparation of his defense, which wasn't fooled by Mountain View's missdirection offense.
"We just worked all week on not following the misdirection stuff, and on reading our keys," O'Rourke said. "We were really able to stifle their running game."
The only points of the first half came on a defensive breakdown by Mountain View. Columbia River's Dante Coleman was uncovered at the 12-yard line to catch a Clayton Frank pass and scoot into the end zone with 1:24 left in the second quarter.
Because of a penalty on the River sideline after the play, the extra-point attempt was a 35-yard kick that was blocked.
Late in the first quarter, the Thunder moved from their own 9 to a first down at the Chieftain 11. On fourth down from the 4, the Columbia River defense made the stop that kept the game scoreless.
On the strength of Frank's 164 passing yards in the first half, River held a 213-153 net yardage edge at halftime. If not for two three first-half turnovers (including a pick on a desperation pass on the last play of the half), Columbia River might have had more than a six-point halftime lead.
COLUMBIA RIVER 15, MOUNTAIN VIEW 7
Columbia River 0 6 6 3--15
Mountain View 0 0 7 0-- 7
CR -- Dante Coleman 50 pass from Clayton Frank (kick blocked)
CR -- Frank 8 run (pass failed)
MV -- Carl Falls 58 run (Jordan Montenegro kick)
CR -- Zach Perron 23 FG
RUSHING -- Columbia River -- Frank 12-131, Jayson Branson 3-6, Remick Kawawaki 19-107, Terrell Bolton 2-(minus 7). Mountain View -- Austin Mace 10-55, Carl Falls 13-103, Russell Culverwell 12-38, Eddie Richardson 8-35.
PASSING -- Columbia River -- Frank 13-25-2-173. Mountain View -- Luke DuChesne 3-8-2-30.
RECEIVING -- Columbia River -- Bolton 5-75, Coleman 3-75, Clark Bryant 1-8, Trey Walker 2-10, Nathan Hawthorne 1-3, Eli Evanson 1-2. Mountain View -- Patrick Woodson 2-18, Culverwell 1-12.