The Lebanon Warriors will play the Crater Comets at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.

But in the hours after the Warriors regular season finale – a 44-7 win over visiting North Salem – it appeared Lebanon would host North Bend in a first-round game. At that point, Lebanon was the 7th-ranked team in the OSAA rankings and North Bend was 10th.

Late Saturday, Oct. 27, however, the rankings changed and Lebanon (7-2) had fallen to ninth. That meant a road tip to play the 8th-ranked Comets (6-3).

“Overall, we’re disappointed with the way the ranking system worked,” said Lebanon head coach Ty Tomlin. “We were a little shocked. We feel like our league is the best in the state.”

Before the season began, Tomlin expressed concern that the 5A Special District 3 (which is the Mid-Willamette Conference plus 6A McKay) was playing a straight conference schedule, with each team playing nine league games and no non-conference games. The lack of non-conference games limits ranking systems’ abilities to weigh teams against others in the state.

Tomlin noted that two 6-3 teams – Crater and Thurston – are ranked ahead of Lebanon and will host first-round games.

Tomlin said his team is ready to play wherever is required, but the loss of a home game is a blow to the community.

“I’m disappointed for our kids, our community. Felt they deserved a home game,” Tomlin said.

Against North Salem, the Warriors once again put up a dominant defensive effort. The Warriors amassed 451 yards of total offense and limited the Vikings to 181.

Tomlin said the entire defense played well. The defensive secondary, he said, has shown improvement over the past several games and played its best game of the year against North Salem.

“They played a phenomenal game,” Tomlin said. “They’ve definitely had to grow on the season. We’re a full team defensively.”

Chase Miller led the defensive effort with eight tackles, seven assists, and two tackles for a loss, including a sack.

Offensively, sophomore running back Keith Brown led the effort with 108 yards on five carries and one touchdown. Five Warriors averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry for the game.

“It starts up front. Our offensive line, they’re great kids. Everything starts with those guys,” Tomlin said.

Lebanon scored a touchdown on its first play from scrimmage. Senior quarterback Colton Shepard kept the ball on the option and sprinted down the sideline for a 54-yard score.

The Vikings answered with a long scoring drive capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Sullivan to tight end Isaak Vipperman.

Those were the last points the Warrior defense allowed. Lebanon pulled ahead on a 35-yard pass from Shepard to Dillan Weber.

Short touchdown runs by Chaz Daniels and Landon Kisling gave the Warriors a 28-7 halftime lead.

After the break, the Viking surprised the Warriors and completed a successful on-side kick. But the Warriors got the ball back on an interception by Miller.

Just as they had in the first half, the Warriors scored on their opening play. Brown rumbled through the Viking defense for a 67-yard touchdown.

Later in the third quarter, Kisling added a 38-yard scoring run.

The Warriors spread the playing time around in the fourth quarter. Lebanon capped the scoring with a 29-yard field goal by Tomas de Jong late in the fourth quarter.

Now the Warriors’ focus is on the postseason. Crater placed second in the six-team Special District 2.

Tomlin said the team has strong quarterback play and talent at running back and wide receiver. The Crater defense is athletic and active.

Lebanon finished the regular season with the top scoring offense in the conference, tallying 389 points. Silverton was second with 327. The Warriors were fourth in scoring defense, giving up 174 points. West Albany led the state with just 72 points allowed.

Silverton enters the 5A playoffs seeded fourth and will host Parkrose. West Albany is seeded fifth and is hosting La Salle Prep. Crescent Valley is seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Pendleton, and Central is seeded 15th and will travel to play second-seeded Churchill.

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