Looking up, the Badgers knew they stood no chance.
After the Cougars' first series of offensive plays, football players on Powder Valley's sideline collectively shook their heads. "How tall are No. 1 and No. 12?" one of them asked. Wallowa High School's intimidating corps of receivers - including "No.1" (Mark Jamerson, a 6-foot-4 senior) and "No. 12" (6-5 junior Ronald Gladden) - claimed their latest victims Oct. 16 in an 80-32 victory at homecoming.
Jamerson added three receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown as well as three interceptions to his totals this season from just five games. He had missed the first two, opting instead to prepare for basketball. "But Josh (Alvarez) kept nagging me," said Jamerson, who also turned three catches into two-point conversions. "I'm glad he did."
The Cougars' second victory in as many weeks boosted their overall record to 5-2, while their mark in Old Oregon improved to 2-1. They tied the Cove High Leopards and the Pine Eagle Spartans for second place.
Senior quarterback Tyler Harshfield ran for two touchdowns and threw for another seven to five different receivers. Jamerson caught one over 67 yards. On defense, he intercepted three of the Badgers' attempts. Meanwhile, Gladden scored on a 53-yard bomb and also picked off a pass by Powder Valley. One of his four receptions dropped every jaw, as Gladden reached over the head of a shorter defender, trapped the ball against the opponent's facemask and pulled it away for a substantial gain. Senior Jake Johnson, senior Chance Waters and junior Cody Green joined in the offensive shooting spree. Alvarez ran in a two-point conversion.
"Most times," Jamerson said, "there's a lot of mismatches, height-wise. We can see over defensive backs. That makes it a lot easier. And we have a lot of quick guys, like Cody, Chance, Josh and Jake."
Powder Valley countered with Trenton Dixon. In the second quarter, the outstanding athlete routinely outraced Cougars across Wallowa's field and made four of the Badgers' five touchdowns. He scored on runs of 63 yards, 55 and 51. He also snagged a 41-yard pass from Bryson Kandle nine seconds before halftime and took the ball to the end zone. That trimmed Wallowa's lead to 48-32. But the Cougars shut him - and the Badgers as a whole - out for the rest of the game. The defense forced five turnovers: four interceptions and a fumble recovered by junior nose guard Tyler Chrisman.
Johnson, a transfer from La Grande High (Class 4A), scored four touchdowns for Wallowa. His first happened with two minutes left in the opening quarter, when he stole a pass from Kandle and scampered 32 yards to the end zone. Other times, Johnson and Harshfield exercised their routine: three over-the-shoulder catches for touchdowns. Johnson totaled seven catches for 139 yards.
"Jake's one of my go-to guys," Harshfield said. "He's got a 6-(foot)-3 in the high jump. He tells me in the huddle, 'Just put it up there; I'll go and get it.' And he always does. Once I make a couple of passes to him, he opens things up for Ronald and Mark."
Green was another big producer. He caught eight passes for 167 yards and also ran for 40 yards on three carries. He tallied the Cougars' first numbers early in the game, when Harshfield hit him with a 27-yard scoring strike. Later in that frame, Green went 35 yards and crossed the goal but a blocking penalty erased the play. However, he capitalized on another chance in the second quarter and rushed 11 yards to pay dirt.
Next, the Cougars on Oct. 23 will host the Leopards. Meantime, the Spartans must challenge the undefeated Panthers from Imbler.