Moments define sports rivalries.
One of Clark County’s biggest high school rivalries may never see another moment like the end of Friday’s game between Columbia River and Skyview.
River won 29-24 on a last-second touchdown, the likes of which Chieftains coach John O’Rourke had not seen in 40-plus years of coaching.
Trailing 24-23, River attempted a 32-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining. Skyview’s rush swarmed the backfield and blocked the kick.
The Storm started celebrating as their fans rushed the field at Columbia River High School.
The football lay on the field for about five seconds. Then the River coaches began screaming.
“It’s live! Pick it up!”
River senior Reese Keller did just that. With Skyview’s players running toward their fans, a River convoy led by Keller ran toward the end zone.
The referee signaled touchdown.
Bedlam ensued as River’s fans rushed the field while joy turned to bewilderment for Skyview.
Because the ball never crossed the line of scrimmage after it was blocked, it remained live.
“Until I see the film I don’t want to make any comment,” Skyview coach Steve Kizer said. “We should have finished the play. That’s the moral of the story.”
Where that ball lives out its days will have something to do with Keller, who caressed it while sharing hugs and handshakes after the game.
Skyview, a Class 4A school, had won seven straight against its Class 3A rival five miles to the south.
“To end their streak on us is the greatest feeling in the world,” Keller said. “We want to go all out against each other. They’re our neighborhood rivals and we want to try as hard as we can to never let them win at any sport.”
The emotional roller coaster was especially jagged for Skyview (0-2). The Storm took a 24-23 lead with 39 seconds left on Zac Shomler’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Noah Bonner.
River returned a squib kickoff to its own 45. Chieftains quarterback Jonathan Branson converted a fourth-and-5 pass to Marcus Gaylor to bring River to Skyview’s 20 yard line with 14 seconds left. River gained five yards on the next play to set up the fateful field goal attempt.
“We’re still in preseason.” Kizer said. “This one is still more important than the other ones. But we’re a work in progress. We sure got a lot better in a week and we’ll be a lot better next week.”
Skyview led 14-9 after a sloppy first half that included three fumbles lost, one interception and a safety.
After Skyview extended its lead, River responded with a 17-yard touchdown pass by Branson to Nathan Hawthorne. The two-point conversion knotted the game 17-17.
River took a 23-17 lead with 4:50 left on Branson’s 18-yard pass to Marcus Gaylor. The pass followed an amazing one-handed diving catch by Holden Fielding to put River within striking distance.
A dual-threat quarterback, Branson threw for 129 yards and rushed for 100. He ran the read-option offense with his twin brother, Jayson Branson, who had 97 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“We practice that every day,” Jonathan Branson said of the read-option, where he must make a split-second decision whether to keep the ball or hand off to his brother. “Our chemistry is better than anyone out here, I guarantee you that. It’s an advantage that we have, us being brothers.”
River (2-0) has two more non-league games before starting Greater St. Helens League play. O’Rourke isn’t worried about a letdown after such an emotional win.
“It’s a more of a positive springboard,” he said. “We had played so hard and so well, especially in the second half.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 29, SKYVIEW 24
Skyview 14 0 3 7–24
C. River 0 9 8 12–29
S — Micahel Knox 2 run (Braden Hadfield kick)
S — Josh Wilkerson 10 pass from Zac Shomler (Hadfield kick)
CR — Jonathan Branson 6 run (Codie Schoene kick)
CR — Safety, downed in end zone
S — FG Hadfield 27
CR — Nathan Hawthorne 17 pass from Branson (Hadfield pass from Branson)
CR — Marcus Gaylor 18 pass from Branson (kick blocked)
S — Noah Bonner 21 pass from Shomler (Hadfield kick)
CR — Reese Keller 32 advancement of blocked kick (no PAT)
RUSHING — Skyview: Knox 18-118, Nate Arriola 22-93; Columbia River: Jonathan Branson 20-100, Jayson Branson 20-97.
PASSING — Skyview: Shomler 9-13-168, Columbia River: Jonathan Branson 14-24 129.
RECEIVING — Skyview: Jacob Dennis 3-87, Bonner 2-32, Arriola 1-25, Wilkerson 2-15, CJ Webb 1-9; Columbia River; Holden Fielding 4-56, Jayson Branson 2-45, Hawthorne 5-40, Gaylor 1-18, Dante Coleman 2-1.