OREGON CITY - The Portland Raiders won their first championship in their 14-year existence with a dramatic 30-27 win over the South King County Colts Saturday to claim the Pacific Football League title at Pioneer Stadium.
Raiders kicker Matt Evensen made a 20-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining to essentially end a game that saw the Raiders nearly blow a 24-7 halftime lead against a determined Colts team that played a dominant second half only to fall short.
Evensen's field goal was set by a clutch defensive stand and then two amazing runs by Raiders quarterback Russell Schneider.
"That was one of the best games in the history of Northwest adult amateur football," Raiders coach Aaron Fentress said. "We got off to a strong start only to see the Colts come right back at us and set up a dramatic ending. Two championship-caliber teams went toe-to-toe and we were fortunate to hold on for the victory."
With the Raiders leading 27-24 with remaining in the fourth quarter, the Colts took possession. The drive looked like it was dead in the water when defensive end Tolo Tuitele forced Colts quarterback Adam Kruse to commit an intentional grounding penalty to avoid a sack after Tuitele grabbed him and flung him to the ground.
That forced the Colts into a third-down and 20 from the Raiders 46. But on the next play, Kruse made an unbelievable throw down the middle for a 34-yard gain to the Raiders' 12 with remaining.
But the Raiders' defense righted itself and managed to keep the Colts out of the end zone, setting up a 29-yard field goal to make the score 27-27 with under four minutes remaining.
"That was a huge stand by our defense," Fentress said. "If the Colts score a touchdown there and take the lead for the first time on the night, who knows what happens next? But we stood strong and held them to a field goal."
Armed with no timeouts, the Raiders began their drive at their own 36. On the first play, Schneider threw a bullet pass down the middle to wide receiver Isaiah Smith, who hauled it in for a 25-yard gain to the Colts 39.
The Raiders then false started on the next play, and then Schneider was sacked for a big loss on the following play to set up a second-down and 24 from the Raiders' 47.
"Once again, we appeared to be rolling only to end up going backwards," Fentress said. "That was pretty much how the second half went for us on offense. We'd get something going then they'd push us back."
But this time, the Raiders found a way to respond.
On the following play, Schneider, the most prolific passer in the history of Northwest adult amateur football, used his legs to escape pressure and ran to the left for a gain of 16 to the Colts' 38 to set up a critical third down.
On the play, Schneider again evaded heavy pressure, ran up field, juked a linebacker at the 30, raced past another defender, out-maneuvered two defenders at the 15, received a huge block form wide receiver Zack McGinnis and then nearly scored before being tripped up at the 3 with 31 seconds remaining.
"Brilliant runs," Fentress said. "Schneider struggled a bit at times in the second half but those two runs showed his overall versatility and intelligence to not force a bad throw but rather simply use his legs to make something happen."
The Raiders then ran a safe run play with Schneider going to his right, but he failed to score.
With the clock running, Schneider set up the offense to spike the ball with 18 seconds remaining.
That led to Evensen's third field goal of the game, this one from 18 yards giving the Raiders the lead for good.
"It's always been a long-running joke with kickers who play for me that all they ever get to do is kick extra points because I'm kind of a gambler on fourth down in scoring position," Fentress said. "But today, we leaned on Evensen to make some big kicks and he came through all three times, and accounted for all of our points in the second half."
Two failed passes by the Colts (8-3) in the final seconds ended the game and left the Raiders (12-1) as champions for the first time in their existence.
"I helped start the Raiders in 2001, coached there a few years before leaving for good," said Fentress, who went on to coach the Portland Monarchs to four league and northwest titles before returning to the Raiders this season. "I always figured I'd eventually return in some capacity since I always maintained an affinity for the this team since I helped create it. So to return as head coach and win a championship is very special. But not more special than doing it with this group of players. We have a wonderful team with great talent, character, resolve and commitment. They earned this championship the right way and it was well deserved."
The scoring began with a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown by Raiders safety Johnathan Simpson. On the second play of the second quarter, Schneider threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Levi Maxwell to make the score 14-0.
An interception by Raiders safety Justin Saldano set up a 52-yard scoring drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Schneider to tight end Drew Dukeshire.
On the play, Schneider was flushed out of the pocket to his left, stopped, looked right and saw a completely uncovered Dukeshire near the goal line. Dukeshire caught the pass and then ran over a defender to score, making the score 21-0.
The Raiders defense held again, forcing a punt. But the offense didn't respond, instead fumbling a hand off that led to a touchdown drive by the Colts to make the score 21-7.
The Raiders answered, however, driving into the Colts red zone but settling for a 36-yard field goal from Evensen to make the score 24-7. On the drive, Schneider completed a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Nick Bodeman, a 16-yarder to Isaiah Smith, and ran for 10 yards.
The Colts never game up though, and started the second half with a daring onside kick that paid off. The Colts then drove to score, making the count 24-14. The Raiders got a drive going but the Colts forced a fumble and then drove to score again, on a 21-yard TD run. Just like that, the score was 24-21.
On the Colts next drive they completed a long, 58-yard pass to the Raiders 3, that only failed to score because Raiders safety Jason Pabillano ran down the receiver to save the touchdown with about 13 minutes remaining.
The Raiders defense then got two tackles for losses before Simpton and defensive end Tuitele combined for a sack to end the threat. But the Colts kicked a field goal to tie the game, 24-24.
Both teams exchanged punts before the Raiders moved into field goal range when from the 50, Scneider rolled right and threw deep to Smith, who made a spectacular, leaping grab near the sideline to put the Raiders at the Colts' 21. On the play, Schneider was hit late, moving the ball to the 10.
However, the Raiders were unable to punch it in and ultimately settled for a 27-yard field goal from Evensen to make the score 27-24, Raiders.
Schneider finished with 311 yards passing with two touchdown passes. Smith caught eight passes for 159 yards.
Once again the Raiders defense held tough, holding the Colts to a 29-yard field goal that made the score 27-27 with remaining.
OREGON CITY - Usually, it's the arm of Russell Schneider that powers the Portland Raiders to victory. Saturday, he used his legs.
Solid defense, opportunistic offense, and a key late-game run by Schneider helped the Raiders beat the South King County Colts 30-27 in the Pacific Football League championship game at Pioneer Stadium.
Schneider threw two touchdown passes in the first half, and saved the game-winning drive with a 34-yard run on third and 8 with under a minute left. The run put the Raiders at the South King 4-yard line and set up kicker Matt Evensen for a 17-yard field goal that broke a 27-all tie with 14.7 seconds remaining.
Schneider scrambled for 17 yards on the previous play to set up the key run.
"They were playing back in pass coverage, and I just found an open space," Schneider said afterward. "I made one guy miss and then I just ran as far as I could."
The title was the first for the Raiders, but second for Schneider, who guided the Portland Monarchs to the league title in 2012.
South King made the game dramatic with a second-half rally from a 24-7 halftime deficit. The Colts tied the game at 24-all, then had a chance to take their first lead with a first down at the Raiders' 11 with under four minutes left, but tossed three incomplete passes and settle for a game-tying field goal.
The Daily World
After running the gauntlet previously in the playoffs, the Bellingham Bulldogs enjoyed smooth sailing in the Pacific Football League championship game.
Eric Taylor passed for 213 yards and four touchdowns as Bellingham captured the PFL title with a 40-7 rout of the South Lane County Buzzards of Springfield, Ore., before a sparse crowd Saturday night at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
The PFL North’s third seed entering the playoffs, the Bulldogs had registered road victories over second-seeded Yakima and the top-seeded Seattle Stallions to make it to the title contest. They had lost to the Portland Monarchs in last year’s championship game.
Considering the dominance of the PFL Northern Division this season (North teams had the league’s top four overall records), the lopsided nature of the game was no surprise.
Owning a 297-10 total offense advantage at the half, the Bulldogs could have won even more decisively except for their own mistakes. They committed four turnovers, incurred 144 yards in penalties, took the points from a field goal off the board when a defensive penalty gave them another crack at a touchdown they failed to convert and had a bad snap on another field goal result in a 31-yard loss.
Bellingham’s defense prevented those miscues from being more critical. Controlling the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs limited the Buzzards to three first downs (one by penalty) in the first three quarters.
Operating from the wildcat formation, Taylor completed 9 of his first 10 passes and also eluded tackles on several Russell Wilson-type scrambles.
He hooked up with Toby Seim on scoring passes of 23 and 4 yards in the first quarter, a 12-yard TD toss to Nicholas Gavigan in the second period and an 11-yard touchdown aerial to Douglas Miller in the fourth quarter.
Gavigan also caught a 39-yard TD pass from reserve quarterback Noah Cline in the fourth quarter.
A pivotal sequence late in the first half ended what passed for suspense.
After linebacker Gary Doughty recovered a Bulldog fumble and quarterback Eric Rich hit Cameron Koeler for a 20-yard gain, the Buzzards — trailing 21-0 — were on the Bellingham 6-yard line in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half. They fumbled, however, and Bellingham linebacker Stephen Faoro recovered.
Two plays later, running back Brett Hall burst up the middle for a 92-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 28-0 lead with 1:49 remaining in the half.
South Lane finally got on the scoreboard on Rich’s 2-yard TD pass to Zach Binx at the 10:06 mark of the fourth quarter.
The often-rancorous contest included 229 yards in penalties and ended with players on each side being ejected for flagrant fouls on the final two plays of the contest.
SL 0 0 0 7 — 7
Bell 14 14 0 12 — 40
First Downs: South Lane 7, Bellingham 16.
Net Rushing: South Lane minus 1, Bellingham 191.
Net Passing: South Lane 101, Bellingham 265
Passing: South Lane 12-25, Bellingham 16-29
Had Intercepted: South Lane 4, Bellingham 2
Fumbles Lost: South Lane 3, Bellingham 2.
Yards Penalized: South Lane 85, Bellingham 144.