Coming off big wins against North Bend and Ridgeview where the Lions scored 55 and 53 points, and were rated No. 9 in the state, one could not blame Cottage Grove fans for the anticipation of a lop-sided win for the Lions over the 1-3 Elmira Falcons on homecoming night. The Falcons went all the way to the state championship game in 2011, but they have lost many of their top players from that team. As it turned out, they had enough starters who came back from their league title squad, to give the Lions a run for their money before succumbing by a score of 42-34.
At press time, it is not known where the Lions are now rated, but they may have risen to No. 7 based upon losses suffered by North Marion and Madras.
“We all knew it was going to be close,” said Lions’ head coach Gary Roberts. “We knew with the athletes Elmira has, you could throw the record out of the window. They have players.”
The last two weeks Cottage Grove’s quick strike offense scored 26 and 33 points before halftime. Not so against the Falcons. Elmira struck first after a scoreless first quarter. Late in the first quarter, Lions gambled at their own 40 on a 4th and 8, and Scotty Hitner’s pass fell incomplete. A couple of minutes later after a 16-yard run by Andrew Admire, he scored from three yards out to put the Falcons ahead 6-0. The natives were getting restless when Elmira got the ball back and drove to the Lions’ 28-yard line. The Falcons tested the Grovers’ defensive line on a 4th and 3 and were stopped in their tracks.
On a 3rd and 9, Hitner connected with Brian Spindler over the middle for 43 yards, and moments later Hitner found Brad Bonds for an 18-yard touchdown. Bonds’ PAT sailed through the uprights, and the Lions took the lead for good.
A big turning point was at the end of the second quarter. With 20 seconds left in the half, and the ball at midfield, Hitner again combined with Spindler for an electrifying 50-yard touchdown. It was 14-6 Lions at the half. With all of that momentum, the Lions received the second half kickoff and on a 4th down play, again it was Hitner to Spindler for a 55-yard toucdown. To Elmira’s credit, they didn’t give up, and came right back to make it a one touchdown game (21-14).
Cottage Grove answered with yet another big play with the duo of Hitner and Spindler. At that point there was still nine minutes to go in the third quarter. The big plays kept happening, and when Hitner ran it in from three yards out to make it a 35-14 game with three minutes to go in the third, it looked to be over. Not so fast…nobody told that to the Falcons, who quickly came back with two touchdowns. Now it was truly anybody’s game.
The Lions settled the matter with yet another big play: Hitner to Oscar Rauda for 62 yards to increase the lead to 42-26. Elmira made it 42-34, but on the last possession of the game, Cottage Grove drove inside the Falcon 10, and sat on the ball to seal the win.
“We played a poor first half offensively,” Roberts said. “We had breakdowns at opportune times. Defensively we were fine. In the second half we played better… executed better. We got some lucky breaks.”
Roberts was quick however to give his players a lot of credit beyond luck.
“I think it was a testament to our kids that their big time players got tired… they hadn’t faced a team like us that spreads it out all over the field. We showed character that we are able to not play our best football, and find a way to beat, in my opinion, a pretty good team.
Statistical leaders for Cottage Grover were: Hitner with 366 yards passing on 20 for 33 with 5 touchdowns, Spindler with 233 receiving yards and 292 all-purpose yards, and Rauda with 65 receiving yards. Daniel Noll was the leading tackler with 7.5 tackles.
This Friday the Lions travel to La Pine to meet the Hawks, who lost to Junction City 46-12 last week.
For the complete article see the 10-03-2012 issue.
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