The Wallowa Cougars played tough against the Crane Mustangs, a team ranked #5 in Oregon 1A football. The final score, 40-56 does not reflect the tenor of the very close game, which the Cougars led periodically, and until the final three minutes was never more than one TD apart. Zeb Ramsden, (131 yards receiving, 138 yards rushing, 2 TD), Zeb Hermens (16 yards receiving, 39 yards rushing), Ryder Goller (113 yards receiving, 1 TD), Tristin Bales (85 yards receiving, 1 TD) led the offense, and were frequent receivers for Lute Ramsden's passes. Altogether, Lute passed for 345 yards, and completed 14 of 35 passes.
The Mustang's pass defense sometimes proved effective. In the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, with Wallowa trailing by one TD, Lute tossed the ball toward Zeb Ramsden and was intercepted. To his credit, he was passing with a bleeding, swollen, and heavily bandaged right hand, and his throw was close to being on-target. Ramsden's passes also led to big gains and breakout scoring runs, including an 80 yard, third quarter play that started with a long toss to Tristin Bales who took it into the Mustang end zone almost untouched, and a thrilling 69-yard fourth quarter connection to brother Zeb Ramsden for a TD that quickly answered a Mustang score, and made the game to a 40-42 nail-biter in the last minutes.
The Cougar defense gave up just 81 yards passing to the Mustangs, but also allowed 391 yards rushing. The Cougars defense had teeth, however, They forced and recovered three Mustang fumbles. Zeb Ramsden (11 tackles, 12 assists), Zeb Hermens (8 tackles, 7 assists), Justin Bales (5 tackles, 6 assists) and Tristin Bales (5 tackles and 6 assists) along with Jesse Duncan and Ruben Hunt who put the claws into the Cougar's defense. The Cougars ceded a total of 80 yards in 13 penalties, losing ground to the Mustangs who gave up just 23 yards in 5 penalties.
The Cougars fielded 10 men. The Mustangs came with 25. The Cougars never gave up. They outgunned the Mustangs with a total of 526 yards to the Mustang's 472. In the last few seconds of the game, Tristin Bales produced a masterful 28 yard run that took him to the Mustang 30 yard line, where time ran out. It was a game the Cougars and their fans were proud of, and despite the loss, the team's level of play raised the Cougar's state ranking from 25 to 23. One referee volunteered the comment to the Chieftain that it was one of the best and hardest-fought games he had officiated at all year.
Coach Matt Brockamp thought the Cougars lived up to their potential in giving one of the finest teams in the state a run for its money.
"It was a really good football game," he said. "We played really hard and executed well." He added the trading of scores and leads proved particularly exciting. He also said the Cougs had a chance to tie the game at 42, but missed the conversion opportunity.
"That meant we had to score again to beat them and we didn't get it done," he said. "Still, we almost beat a highly-ranked football team. We statistically out-gained our opponent and as a young team, we just need to find a way to avoid the mental mistakes on defense."
Brockamp said the squad had only a single game left before packing it in for the season, but the Cougars' performance versus the Mustangs lit the way for a bright future.
"We're excited," he said. "We'll be tough to beat next year, I think."