The Lebanon Warriors Football team has a shot at winning the first state title in program history!
We're excited to root on the Warriors as they face Wilsonville Wildcats in the OSAA 5A state championship at 6 p.m. under the lights at Hillsboro Stadium on Nov. 26.
Let's take a look at how the team got to this point:
For the regular season, the Warriors only lost one game in a rivalry matchup against the South Albany Rebels 16-14. Other than that minor blemish the Warriors have always been able to find a way to win, even when trailing at halftime, as they became the undisputed league champion.
Beating South, would have given the Warriors the title outright, but they had to wait another week for their date with Dallas.
At that game, the Dragons' grass field conditions were in such poor shape from heavy rains that the Dragon's home field advantage was offset. Those conditions made Dallas more complex double wing-T style offense harder to run than Lebanon's more simple veer option offense.
The Warriors were able to shut down that offense, allowing the Dragons to only score 10 point. An interception from Jackson Hoene helped that cause as well.
The Warriors didn't hide the fact they were going to opt for the run nearly every time, which set up running back Nathaniel Maddox to be wide open to haul in a 75-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Maddox has been the Warriors' biggest threat this year, so to leave him open is a huge mistake.
Those poor conditions are why Dallas opted to give up their home field advantage, and play in Corvallis in the first round of the state playoff.
Oddly, despite Lebanon earning the league title over Silverton, (a team Lebanon beat 21-20) the Foxes earned the better seed in the state tournament. The Foxes were knocked out by Redmond in a huge upset in the first round of the playoffs.
Fortunately, seeding doesn't matter when you win every game and the now the fourth-seeded Warriors will take on the second-seeded Wilsonville Wildcats for the state title. The Wildcats dominated the Central Panthers to earn the spot in the final matchup against Lebanon.
The good news there is that Lebanon also tamed the Panthers in a 32-6 victory at Heath Stadium in the regular during a downpour where the lights went out, and many people were stuck in the stands waiting for the game and lights to come back.
The team has stepped up to every challenge they faced this year; coming back from behind after halftime to beat Ashland in overtime in the quarterfinals. And the Warriors showed class by not getting overwhelmed by a frustrated Hillsboro team in the first round.
The Hillsboro Grizzlies were taking cheap late shots in that game, and were in full meltdown as they had two players ejected late in the game in the 52-7 victory for the Warriors.
As for latest game that propelled Lebanon into the finals it was a rematch of that de facto league championship against the Dragons.
For the semi-final rematch game, at a neutral field played on turf, not surprisingly it was a much closer game, but like the rest of the Warriors season they found a way to win.
Both teams were familiar with the other's offense. So it allowed the Warriors to shut down the Dragons' run game, and the Dragons shut down nearly all of the Lebanon options on offense.
The Warriors won the game by capitalizing on a bad snap in the second quarter turning it over on downs, giving the Warriors a touchdown from the 2-yard line on a Maddox run. The Warriors would get a field goal with the seconds left in the half to take a 10-0 lead.
The Warriors wouldn't score again. So the victory depended on the performance of the defense. That defense stepped up only allowing one TD in the second half.
The Dragons were faced with a fourth and 25 and the last drive of the game, and under pressure Dallas quarterback Caedmon Blair threw a jump ball that was intercepted by Kyler Alley to ice the game for the Warriors.
Next week we're expecting a much more offensive game on both sides of the ball as the Wilsonville Wildcats have a prolific offense through the air. And Wilsonville good luck containing Maddox, but if you manage to do that the Warriors have a bunch of other options to throw your way. We're excited to watch the best game of the year.
For more information and photos from the game see B1.