GRESHAM — Despite fumbling away the opening kickoff and having two touchdowns called back due to penalty in the first half, the Newberg football team still managed to build a 35-19 halftime lead over Centennial Friday evening.
The Eagles, who rallied to edge Newberg 41-40 last year, threatened a similar comeback by piecing together a 20-play touchdown drive on their opening possession of the second half, capped by a two-point conversion that made it a one-score game at 35-27.
The Tigers did not get on the board in the third quarter, but that was mostly because Centennial's opening march took more than 10 minutes off the game clock.
After Cam Sutton eked out a third-down conversion to avoid giving the ball right back to the Eagles, senior quarterback Garrett Meyers broke free and scampered 36 yards down the sideline on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 42-27.
Most impressive to first-year NHS coach Kevin Hastin, though, was that the Tigers were far from done, as they added two more scores in the next five minutes to pull away for a convincing 56-27 road victory.
"It was a little bit ugly in the first half with the penalties," Hastin said. "It wasn't our cleanest game, but I was happy with how we finished in the fourth quarter."
Despite giving up the long drive, Hastin said he saw a lot of positives from his defense, which promptly got the ball back for the offense with a Tristan Phillips-Price interception after Myers made it a two-score game.
The problem on the seemingly endless drive was poor tackling yet Newberg still had several chances to get off the field as the Eagles converted three times on fourth down and another on third and 14.
"On the defensive side, we're real close to putting together a dominant game," Hastin said. "So we're progressing. We just need to improve in a couple of small areas and it will be a lot better."
After the Phillips-Price interception, running back Jack Evans pretty much put the game away with a 21-yard scoring run a few plays later. After getting the ball back again, Evans broke free for a 63-yard run to set up Newberg's final score on a nine-yard run by Sutton.
Centennial had no answer for Newberg's running game, which racked up 424 yards on 38 carries out of Hastin's pistol-wing T offense.
"I'm not surprised, but at the same time I am impressed with multiple guys," Hastin said. "We have three guys that can carry the ball really well and then we have some explosive targets at receiver and I couldn't be happier with my quarterback play."
Although there were a few hiccups in the passing game, Myers threw for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those, which covered 50 and 35 yards, respectively, were to do-everything running back Byron Morris, who had a bit of a coming out party after playing a backup role as a junior a year ago.
Injuries also limited him during the opener against Barlow, but Morris carried the ball eight times for 112 yards and one touchdown in addition to his 100 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
"He's one of the most explosive athletes in the state, I think," Hastin said. "Whenever he touches the ball, there's a chance he could go. We've been able to stretch people vertically with him out at receiver and running the football. He's explosive!"
Sutton carried the ball 11 times for 104 yards and Evans needed just six carries to compile his 118 yards.
"Offensive line, I knew going into the year that we're not very deep there, but that felt like it could be a strength and they've proven it so far," Hastin said. "They're a strong group, so it's exciting."
In addition to cleaning up a few things on defense, Hastin said his team needs to make big strides in the kicking game, where it has been giving opponents great field position on kickoffs, especially.
Still, the Tigers (2-0) will enter conference play Friday at Canby unbeaten for the first time since joining the Three Rivers League three years ago.
"I'm seeing a lot of good signs and steps in the right direction," Hastin said. "Overall, I'm really happy with the effort and the preparation and we're excited for Canby."