LEBANON — All three of the Lebanon High football team’s losses have followed a similar script.
The reigning 5A state champions surrendered late touchdown drives in consecutive home games against Crescent Valley and Silverton, resulting in a pair of one-point defeats to open Mid-Willamette Conference play. After three straight double-digit wins, Lebanon allowed 15 points in the final minutes as South Albany stormed back for a 28-24 victory on Oct. 20.
The loss put Lebanon’s state postseason aspirations in jeopardy.
Needing a win to secure a round of 16 bid, the Warriors rolled on both sides of the ball in a 44-7 rout of Dallas. Lebanon then turned in another defensive gem last Friday, a 22-6 road victory at seventh-seeded Sandy to open the playoffs.
“We were a team this season that really needed to grow up, and the coaches told us that,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Ray Rashoodi said. “We have a lot of young, athletic players and the (Sandy) game kind of set the bar for what we can be. The playoff attitude came out of us, the intensity cranked up and when we play to our full potential, we don’t think there’s a team can stop us.”
The 10th-seeded Warriors’ (7-3) defense will receive another test Friday night in No. 2 Wilsonville (9-1), which puts up 43.4 points per game offensively. Only No. 4 Churchill (50.3) and eighth-seeded Thurston (43.9) average more at the 5A level.
Friday’s quarterfinal is also a rematch of last year’s state championship game, a 34-17 Lebanon victory at Hillsboro Stadium.
“I’m excited to see what the kids can do,” Warriors coach Ty Tomlin said. “Obviously Wilsonville is a whole ‘nother breed on offense, but our kids have pretty good confidence right now from the last couple of weeks. So we are hoping to build on that, stay disciplined and fly around like we normally do.”
The winner advances to play No. 6 South Albany or No. 3 Hermiston in the semifinals.
Wilsonville’s dynamic offense is led by junior quarterback Nathan Overholt, who has completed 93 of 134 passes (69.4 percent) for 1,392 yards with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions this fall. Overholt has also run for 275 yards and five scores.
In last year’s title bout, Overholt was forced into action when Lebanon knocked star quarterback Connor Neville out of the game. Overholt finished 6 of 17 for 57 yards and a pick in two-plus quarters of play.
Fellow junior Cooper Mootz is Wilsonville’s top rusher with 1,055 yards and 23 TDs on 156 carries. Eight different Wildcats have caught TD passes, led by Jonah Gomez’s five.
“They’ve got some good players and we respect that,” Rashoodi said. “But we’ve seen some good offenses and we’ve seen some big boys. We’re not really worried about them, we’re trying to worry about us right now.”
The opportunistic Warriors have forced eight turnovers the past two weeks, picking off five passes while recovering three fumbles. Wilsonville has turned it over just 12 times all season.
Lebanon was terrific on third down against Sandy, holding the Pioneers to a pair of conversions on 12 chances (16.7 percent).
“We’ve challenged the defense to step up and finish games for us,” Tomlin said. “Our secondary played lights-out last week and the front seven continued to do well.”
The Wildcats also possess a stout front seven that has controlled every game since their Week 1 loss to 6A South Medford. On the back end, Wilsonville mostly plays man-to-man.
In last year’s title game, Lebanon piled up 389 yards and scored four second-half TDs against the same defensive scheme.
“They’ve pretty much dominated up front, so we are telling our guys that we have to come downhill, stay on blocks and play our game, which is something they haven’t seen,” Tomlin said. “We are pretty physical and we do fly around, so if we can match that intensity from their front seven, it’s going to be a great game. If not, they’re going to do what they do and it’s going to be a long game for us.”