OREGON – It may not go down as the prettiest of nights for the Fremont Ross offense, but a record-setting defensive performance more than made up for it.
To say Oregon Clay’s rushing attack generated little offense against the Little Giant defensive front would be a massive understatement. Ross’ line dominated the Eagles up front and was the catalyst for the Little Giants’ 42-29 win over Clay.
“We were definitely bigger and more physical than them up front,” coach Chad Long said of his defensive line. “We played really just the three on the defensive line, Dontrez Brown, Jason Burling and Carson Brandon and they were able to cause havoc all night and penetrate. We eliminated one facet of the game.”
Ross’ line, including Nicholas Mayle, limited to Clay to 165 total yards of offense, including -39 yards rushing, setting a new program record for fewest rushing yards in a game, breaking the record by one yard, also against Clay, set in a 21-7 win in 1986.
Ross allowed Clay only six running plays of positive yardage while driving the Eagles backward 13 times, including seven sacks.
“We could have had a lot more, we could have had four or five more negative plays, but the quarterback spun out a lot,” Long said.
Ross led 22-14 at halftime but soon found itself trailing. Clay scored on the strangest play of the night. Punting from deep in their own territory, the Eagles kicked a short punt where, Ross believed, the play was dead. The officials ruled however it was a live ball and the Eagles recovered the ball and took it 61 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 22.
Five minutes later, the Eagles took the lead when Hayden Lehmann’s pass was intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown, taking a 29-22 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Little Giants, however, evened the score before the end of the quarter, Ross fed the ball to running back Ethan Chumley, who spearheaded the Little Giants’ 10-play, 67-yard drive, with six carries totaling 53 yards, the final two of which resulted in the game-tying touchdown with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
But Chumley wasn’t finished. After linebacker Garrett Schneider got the ball back for the Little Giants with an interception, Chumley wasted little time putting it into the end zone, scoring on a 5-yard run with 8:46 remaining in the fourth quarter to take the lead, 35-29, following a missed extra point.
After beginning the game unable to generate much in the rushing game in the first half, Ross’ offensive line performed better in the second half, coinciding with Chumley’s hard running style to give the Little Giants an effective rushing attack in the second half.
Chumley finished the night with 107 yards on 19 carries.
“We told them at halftime, ‘We need to run the ball we have to establish the run,’” Long said. “Then we started going to that two-back set, and having that extra blocking back, whether it was Chumley or Caleb Wood, we were able to get bigger runs. Chumley ran hard and I thought Caleb had some big runs as well. But Chumley was a big part of our success and winning this game. He put the team on his back, running as hard as he did, and he was exhausted.”
Ross nearly cost itself dearly after it fumbled the ball away on its next possession, giving the Eagles the ball Clay’s 23-yard line. But the Little Giant defense, as it did all night, pushed the Eagles back. Clay quickly found itself moving backwards and was forced the punt after a three-and-out in which it lost 19 yards of field position.
Ross then ran out the clock with Chumley and the run game, eventually adding an insurance touchdown with 31 seconds remaining on a quarterback sneak by Lehmann.
Clay struck first midway through the opening quarter when Logan Heintschel found Adam Ummel over the middle who then weaved his way through the Ross defense for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 7-0.
Ross answered right back. The Little Giants marched 61 yards in nine plays, capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by Lehmann, keeping an option run around the right side of the line for the score.
Clay then went three-and-out on its next possession and punted from its own 19, but the kick was blocked by Dontrez Brown, sending the ball bouncing out the back of the end zone for a safety and a 9-7 Ross lead.
Getting the ball back on a Clay free kick, the Little Giants started with great field position at the Eagles’ 38-yard line. Six plays later, Lehmann, rolling out of the pocket under pressure, found Bryce McKinstry in the end zone for a 24-yard strike and a 16-7 lead.
The double-digit lead didn’t last long as the Eagles struck on another long pass play, taking a screen pass 43 yards for a touchdown, cutting Ross’ lead to 16-14.
“We played very, very sloppy Fremont football tonight,” Long said. “We can’t give up pick-6s and we can’t fumble the ball. There’s too many times we’re driving and we fumble. It’s just unacceptable. Our defense played great, at times, and at other times…we had three missed tackles on the same play and that guy bounces, bang-bang-bang and gone. It’s unacceptable.”
The score remained 16-14 until the final moments of the first half until, on fourth down at the Eagles’ 10-yard line, Lehmann and McKinstry connected on their second touchdown of the quarter on a slant route to take a 22-14 lead into halftime.
McKinstry, playing with a cast on his hand due to a fracture in his hand, had an outstanding night, catching swing passes and getting good yards after the catch and making tough catches in the middle of the field. He finished with eight catches for 105 yards.
McKinstry’s two touchdowns give him 11 for his career, tying him for fourth-most in program history, and eight this season, which ties him for second-most in a single season, one behind the record shared by Mike Matthes and Jeffrey Barnett.
“He had a good, solid game,” Long said of McKinstry. “We kept running those S-screens and they weren’t covering them so we kept running them and running them. And couple of his big runs came back due to holding.”
Lehmann finished the night completing 19 of 27 passes for 182 yards, surpassing 4,000 yards for his career (4,063).
Noah Hotz caught five passes for 33 yards. He moved into second place in all-time career receiving yards with 1,252 yards, passing Greg Brown’s 1,227. Hotz needs 89 yards to pass the record of 1,340 set by Terence Davis.
While the individual history is nice, Long has no illusions of what will happen to the Little Giants (4-5 overall, 3-3 TRAC) if they play next week at St. Francis as they did Friday against Clay.
“We’ll lose. We will lose,” he said. “We cannot play football like this. We were pretty bad on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively – at times. St. Francis has a pretty athletic quarterback and a really good, all-conference running back as well. They have a very good defense and they’ll play one-on-one man coverage too. We have to be ready.”
FR| 9 – 13 – 7 – 13 — 42
OC| 7 – 7 – 15 – 0 — 29
OC – Adam Ummel 70 pass from Logan Heintschel (Ruger Wamer kick), 5:41
FR – Hayden Lehmann 10 run (Alec Slemmer kick), 3:03
FR – Safety
FR – Bryce McKinstry 24 pass from Lehmann (Slemmer kick), 11:26
OC – Jacob Novak 43 pass from Heintschel (Ruger Wamer kick), 10:35
FR – McKinstry 10 pass from Lehmann (kick fail), 0:05
OC – Kameron Miller 61 fumble recovery (Trey Reddick pass from Heintschel), 9:37
OC – Ummel 51 interception return (Wamer kick), 4:27
FR – Ethan Chumley 2 run (Slemmer kick), 0:26
FR – Chumley 5 run (kick fail), 8:46
OC – Lehmann 1 run (Slemmer kick), 0:31.
RUSHING – Ethan Chumley 19-107; Caleb Wood 6-49; Hayden Lehmann 16-42; Deryante Hardin 8-12. Totals, 49-210.
PASSING – Hayden Lehmann 19-27 182 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
RECEIVING – Bryce McKinstry 8-75; Deryante Hardin 5-39; Noah Hotz 5-33; Caleb Wood 1-2. Totals, 19-182.