INDEPENDENCE — The Lebanon Warriors led Central 13-10 at halftime on Friday night, but were far from satisfied with their level of play.
The team entered the game having suffered three straight losses and faced an early deficit against the Panthers after a pitch from quarterback Cole Weber was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Lebanon (3-3 Mid-Willamette Conference) bounced back with a scoring drive of its own capped by a 35-yard run by Weber. The Warriors’ attempt at a 2-point conversion failed.
A 35-yield field goal by kicker Omar Parraquin stretched the Panthers’ lead to 10-7 in the second quarter.
On Central’s next drive, the Panthers were just inside the Warriors’ 20-yard line and looking to extend their lead. But the Lebanon defense came up with a big play as senior defensive lineman Gatlyn Anderson forced a fumble which sophomore Brayden Currey recovered and ran back 80 yards for a touchdown. After Uriel Rangel’s extra point, the Warriors held a 13-10 lead, which held until halftime.
“Losing three in a row is always a knock at the confidence a little bit and I think that sort of shook us in the first half. Our kids came together at halftime and said 'This is not us. This is not what we want,'” Lebanon head coach Ty Tomlin said.
Anderson said the defensive players had a talk among themselves and came out determined to play better in the second half.
“We just picked it up. We took off,” Anderson said.
The Warriors scored four unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and rolled to a 41-10 victory.
The first score of the quarter came on a 14-yard pass from Weber to senior tight end Kyle Haley.
Lebanon extended its lead on a 4-yard run by junior Keith Brown. Weber converted a 2-point conversion on a keeper as the Warriors took a 27-10 lead.
Lebanon’s defense held on the next possession and Brown capped a quick scoring drive with a 51-yard touchdown run, capped by a Rangel extra point.
The Warrior defense helped create the final score as Brown recovered a Panther fumble at the Central 3. Penalties backed the Warriors up, but Weber found senior running back Brock Barrett on a short route and Barrett rambled in for a 33-yard score. The extra point gave the Warriors their final margin.
The teams played a scoreless fourth quarter with Lebanon’s junior defensive back Jacob Willcox ending the Panthers’ final drive with an interception.
Anderson said the team had a good week of practice. Tomlin agreed and credited the coaching staff and players with a strong week of preparation.
“We challenged our coaches and coach (Kris) Judy, our defensive coordinator, he did a good job taking ownership of what we haven’t been doing and he had a phenomenal game plan ready for our kids this week. He and our coaching staff really challenged our kids defensively to trust each other and do our jobs. We haven’t really been doing that,” Tomlin said. “Tonight is a testament to doing our job, trusting our team, playing hard and playing physical.”
Anderson said the defense came into the game focused on stopping Central’s running game.
“We were focused on shutting the gaps down, shutting the run game down,” Anderson said.
The Warriors accomplished that goal, limiting the Panthers to 77 yards of total offense (32 passing and 45 rushing).
The Warriors had 367 yards of total offense with a balanced attack. Weber completed 13 of 20 pass attempts for 148 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Lebanon gained 219 yards on the ground, with Brown leading the way with 80 yards on six carries and two touchdowns. Senior Landon Kisling added 51 yards on six carries.
The Warriors host South Albany (2-4 MWC) on Friday night, The Rebels have league wins over McKay and Central.
“You know it’s going to be a tough battle. They’re the closest school to us and they always get up for us,” Tomlin said. “I have a ton of respect for what (David) Younger does over there and so it will be a fun one.”
LEBANON 41, CENTRAL 10
Lebanon 6 7 28 0 - 41
Central 7 3 0 0 - 10
C - 65-yard interception return (Parroquin kick), 9:26
L - Weber 35 run (conversion failed), 8:09
C - Parroquin 35 field goal, 11:46
L - Currey 80 fumble return (Rangel kick)
L - Haley 14 pass from Weber (missed kick), 8:31
L - Brown 4 run (Weber run), 4:11
L - Brown 51 run (Rangel kick), 3:31
L - Barrett 33 pass from Weber (Rangel kick), 1:15