Falls City’s football team made history in the 2017 season, making into the state semifinals before losing to Dufur 58-28 on Nov. 19.
As of Wednesday, November 15, 2017
ROSEBURG — There was something different about Falls City’s football team.
Something that players recognized from the first day of practice.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, guys wanted to go out and compete and win games,” senior Jeremy Labrado said. “Yeah, they wanted to win before, but it was just a football game. Now it’s completely different. It’s something we love to do. It’s more than just a game.”
That attitude has led the Mountaineers to make history. Falls City is headed to the state semifinals at Liberty High School in Hillsboro after defeating Camas Valley 30-10 on Saturday.
Things didn’t go according to plan early during Falls City’s quarterfinal matchup with Camas Valley.
The Mountaineers were forced to punt deep in their own territory. The snap sailed over Jeremy Labrado’s head and Falls City gave up a safety.
“We came in all hyped up,” senior Noah Sickles said. “When you do that, you can make mistakes and other teams capitalized. Once we slowed down and started playing our game, we were fine.”
Falls City responded in a big way.
“The kids stayed the course,” coach Laric Cook said. “They got the ball in the end zone, got a stop on defense and put the ball in the end zone again, and it felt like we were in control of the game.”
After taking a 16-10 lead into the half, perhaps the game’s most pivotal moments happened.
Camas Valley drove the ball to the Falls City 1-yard line early in the third quarter.
“We had a horrible, horrible pass interference called on us,” Cook said. “I let the referees know and got a 15-yard penalty myself. I didn’t help the kids at all then.”
Facing a fourth-and-goal, the Mountaineers’ defense needed one more stop or risk falling behind.
“They definitely had the momentum,” Labrado said.
The defense stood firm.
“We knew they were going to run up the middle,” Noah Sickles said. “We piled on and stopped them.”
Falls City drove the ball 99-yards, capped off by a 50-yard touchdown run by Austin Burgess.
Labrado finished the game with 130 rush yards and a touchdown. Sickles added 68 yards on 11 rushes. Jesse Sickles threw for two touchdowns to Burgess. Burgess scored three total touchdowns during the victory.
The sixth-seeded Mountaineers will face second-seeded Dufur in the semifinals. Dufur defeated Falls City 50-12 on Aug. 31, but both teams weren’t at full strength, Cook said.
“We’ve moved guys around and are a totally different team,” Labrado said. “They’re a completely different team than the beginning of the season.”
Dating back to last season, the defending state champions have won 18 games in a row — scoring 42 or more points in each game.
“We’ll put together a game plan go out there and execute it,” Cook said. “Everyone has to execute their part of the game plan every stinking time. … We have to not turn the ball over and not make mistakes. We had too many unforced mistakes against Camas.”
Those mistakes won’t fly against Dufur, but the Mountaineers aren’t shying away from the challenge.
“We’ll try to bring some heat and play downhill, physical football with them,” Cook said.
The winner faces the winner of Hosanna Christian vs. Triad on Nov. 25 in the state title game.
“A win would be a really big confidence booster headed into the championship game,” Sickles said. “It would be big for the whole town and the community.”
Now, Falls City stands two wins away from a state title.
“I want to be practicing on Thanksgiving Day,” Cook said.