SEASIDE — After all that — the 86 combined points, the 756 yards in total offense, the back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns — after all that, it came down to one defensive stop on a two-point conversion try in overtime.
The big defensive play belonged to the Gulls, and so did the win, 44-42 over Estacada. The season comes to a close for the Rangers, while the win sends Seaside on to the semifinals, where the Gulls will face Gladstone (Saturday, 11 a.m., Hillsboro Stadium).
Meanwhile, Seaside’s overtime victory brought an end to one crazy night of football at Broadway Field, in the 4A state quarterfinal playoff.
Two ties and two lead changes didn’t even begin to tell the story. It was the emotional post-game gatherings for each team and the looks on players’ faces that said it all. Cheers at the north end of the field, tears at the south end.
And nothing but mutual respect from the two coaches.
“We saw these guys earlier this year and had a little taste of what they are,” Estacada coach Andy Mott said of the Gulls, a team the Rangers played for a half hour in a pre-season jamboree. “They’re a good football team, and we knew they were going to go a long ways.”
Likewise, Seaside coach Jeff Roberts said, “Estacada came out and gave us everything they had. Hats off to Andy and his club, and those kids. We haven’t been hit like that in a while.”
If the state Player of the Year award wasn’t locked up before, it is now. Seaside senior Alexander Teubner rushed for 225 yards and scored five touchdowns, running his season total to 2,041 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns.
His last score of the night was a 6-yard pass reception from quarterback Payton Westerholm, on the first possession of the overtime.
Brayden Johnson caught the two-point conversion pass from Westerholm, and that turned out to be the difference.
The Rangers scored on their only overtime possession (a 20-yard pass from Nick Keller to Kaden Settle), but Estacada’s try for two was stuffed by the Seaside defense, as Gabriel Martinez took the direct snap from center but was tackled short of the goal line.
“We made one more defensive play than they did, is what it boils down to,” Roberts said.
Westerholm said, “There was 24 points in the first two minutes of the game, so we felt like whichever defense was going to make one stop was going to win the game. And that’s kind of how it played out.”
And the Gulls were prepared for Estacada’s final two-point conversion try.
“We’ve seen that formation,” Roberts said of Estacada’s full-house backfield ‘Wildcat’ set. “Rainier runs that, and Andy has a background at Rainier, so we knew we’d see some of it. They usually get two or three yards when they run from that formation, and they got two-and-a-half. That’s all we could give up in that situation.”
Westerholm said, “When we got our two-point conversion to go up eight, we knew that even if they score, we’re going to have to make a stop on their two-point conversion. We were comfortable with that. That’s what we wanted.”
Just how closely matched were the two teams?
In addition to the two-point differential on the scoreboard, Seaside had 379 yards in total offense, to Estacada’s 377.
The main difference was Seaside’s “T-n-T” backfield of Duncan Thompson and Teubner. The two combined for 333 rushing yards on just 28 carries (11.9 yards per run).
Meanwhile, that’s two down, two to go for Seaside.
The Gulls are halfway through their four-game playoff run to a championship. In addition to Seaside, the Final Four includes Marshfield, Banks and Gladstone. Seaside defeated Gladstone on Sept. 14, 70-46.
The 2018 season ended on the same field where it began for the Rangers.
Estacada’s last trip to Seaside was Aug. 24, when the Rangers took part in a jamboree at Broadway Field.
It was a little warmer that day, and a lot less intense.
“Sixteen plays the first time we saw them didn’t do it justice,” Roberts said of the jamboree meeting. “(Keller) is a heck of a player. They’re hard-nosed kids, and they gave us everything we could handle.”
The game started out like most Seaside games, with the Gulls driving down the field, unopposed.
Seaside’s first two plays were runs of 13 and 41 yards by Thompson, and play No. 4 was a 10-yard touchdown run by Teubner. Ledger Pugh caught the two-point conversion pass from Johnson, and the start could not have been easier for the Gulls.
But that’s where the contest turned into something similar to an Arena Football League game.
Estacada’s Gabriel Martinez returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, and Keller ran in the tying two-point conversion.
Not to be outdone, Johnson fielded the next kickoff for the Gulls, and sprinted through the Rangers’ kick coverage for a 65-yard TD return.
Johnson again threw to a wide open Pugh for two points.
Just like that, 24 points in 26 seconds, and a 16-8 lead for the Gulls.
After that, the game turned into a scoring battle between Keller and Teubner.
Keller rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, but Teubner was again unstoppable, gaining 225 on 22 attempts (10.2 per run).
Still, the Rangers grabbed a 36-29 lead with 10:23 left in regulation on a 23-yard run by Martinez.
“When we got down, we all remembered what happened last year against Henley (when the Hornets rallied for a 43-39 win), and we knew we needed to kick it into overdrive,” Westerholm said.
The Gulls had a few miscues on special teams, but Teubner returned the ensuing kickoff to the Estacada 37, setting up a five-play scoring drive capped by (of course) a Teubner TD run.
Ironically, the best drive of the night resulted in no points.
Starting their final possession of regulation with 7:42 remaining from their own 31-yard line, the Rangers drove 69 yards in 15 plays, with a penalty on Seaside leaving Estacada with a fourth down play from the Gulls’ 10.
The Rangers decided to pass up a 26-yard field goal try, and Keller’s pass into the end zone was broken up.
“We thought about (a field goal), but the kids and everybody wanted to go for it,” Mott said. ”We thought we had the right call on and had a chance.”
Estacada was “definitely a way different team that what we saw in the jamboree and what we saw on film,” Westerholm said. “Maybe we took them a little lightly. They’re a really good team with a great quarterback. Every team is better now, and everyone’s playing towards one goal. We have something to play for, too.”
The Seaside football program is entering uncharted territory, at least over the last 25 years.
But for a handful of players on the Seaside roster, it’s just another state championship run.
Westerholm, Thompson, Johnson, Dylan Meyer, etc., … athletes who already own state championship rings, and could have a couple more four months from now.
“This will be new territory for me and the program,” Roberts said, “but not for these kids. These kids know how to win.”