Like all cats, Cougars have 9 lives. On Friday afternoon, the Wallowa Cougars rebounded after a painful loss to the Union Bobcats, sharpened their claws and won a resounding, season-defining 74-6 victory over the Pine-Eagle Spartans in Halfway.
The Cougars were led by the accurate passing of quarterback Lute Ramsden, who frequently found his brother and favorite target, Zeb Ramsden, for a total of nearly 200 yards (196 yards to be exact) passing. Lute tossed four touchdown passes, and completed 13 of 18, with one interception. Running back Tristin Bales and tight end Kolby Mandal were also on the receiving end. Zeb Ramsden racked up 137 rushing yards. Bales hauled in passes for 71 yards, which were generally augmented by speedy runs. Ramsden and Bales broke tackles, weaved through the Spartan defense, and out-paced defenders on long sprints into the end zone. Bales made an extraordinary interception of a Spartan pass at the 1 yard line and transformed it into a touchdown. Other outstanding plays included Kolby Mandal’s leaping snag of a Lute Ramsden touchdown pass in the end-zone, which he followed up by running in the two-point conversion, and Zeb Hermen’s heads-up recovery of a Spartan fumble that Zeb Ramsden transformed into a touchdown on the next play.
The Cougar defense hung tough, allowing the Spartans a skimpy total of only 39 yards rushing. Defensively, Justin Bales led the squad with three tackles and four assists while Tristin Bales notched two tackles and added four assists. Ryder Goller bagged two sacks.
Although the Spartans penetrated the Cougar ten-yard line several times in the game, the Cougars held their ground and the Spartans came up empty-handed. At one point the Spartan announcer just gave up naming tacklers and simply said “He’s tackled by everyone on the field.”
Things started badly for the Spartans, with the super-speedy Tristin Bales returning the game’s kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. But things seemed to improve when Spartan quarterback Sean Roe tossed a 20-yard pass for a score. However it would be the last time the Spartans set foot in the end zone.
Lute Ramsden lobbed a 15-yard pass to Kolby Mandal in the end zone, whomade a leaping catch that the NFL would have been proud of. Mandel also ran in the two-point conversion.
The Cougars worked their way down the field, aided by Bales’ and Zeb Ramsden’s sideline sprints and power-fueled runs. With less than 2 minutes left in the first quarter, Mason Moore powered his way across the goal line for a TD, and Zeb Hermens ran in the two-point conversion.
The Cougars only scored once in the second quarter, on a 25-yard Ramsden to Ramsden pass, with two point conversion honors provided by a Kolby Mandal run. At the half it was 32-6.
Coach Matt Brockamp urged his players to keep playing hard, and “Be hungry!” They heeded his advice. In the third quarter, Zeb Ramsden scampered 47 yards down the Spartan sideline for six points. After the Spartans gave up the ball on downs, Lute Ramsden chucked a 47-yard pass to Bales, who repeated the sideline scamper for another six. Brother Zeb powered in for the two-point conversion. The last score of the third quarter came on another long, 35-yard sprint by Zeb Ramsden.
In the forth quarter, Bales caught a short, bullet-of-a-pass in the end zone, and Zeb Hermens wriggled through defenders for the conversion. With the Spartans threatening to score, Bales made a dramatic interception just outside the goal line, and burned up the turf for 99 yards to score a dramatic Cougar touchdown at the other end of the gridiron. The final Cougar score came with about 4 minutes remaining in the game on a 60 yard punt return by Zeb Ramsden. Bales iced the vidtory with a two-point conversion run.
The Cougars seemed much improved in blocking. Center Ruben Hunt and offensive lineman Jesse Duncan, Kolby Mandal and others worked hard to open holes that the offense could move through for gains.
Although the Cougars were not flawless, with one Bales touchdown called back on a penalty, they played with finesse, loosing relatively few yards on penalties during the entire game. Their penalties, mostly due to illegal motion, lost them a total of 25 yards.
Coach Matt Brockamp was pleased with the team's performance in their first win.
"The kids needed that," he said. "They played well. We scored offensively and defensively and on special teams. It was a lot of fun to get the win."
Brockamp also had praise for his freshman quarterback.
"He's evolved pretty well," Brockamp said. "He's young, and he's going to keep working and getting better. He's going to be a great quarterback."
The strength of the win moved Wallowa up to an OSAA state ranking of 25th in 1A football. They have two home, league games remaining this season, both at 7 p.m. Friday Oct. 18 the Cougars take on 5th-ranked Crane, and Friday, Oct. 25 they play 33rd-ranked Cove.
"Crane is really good," Brockamp said. "We've got our work cut out for us this week. The goal for us remains the same: To find a way to win."