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Gervais football team playoff-bound for first time since the 1950s

No one seems to remember the exact date when the Gervais football program last qualified for the state playoffs, but after last week’s 28-14 win over Amity clinched a post-season berth for the Cougars, the year 2013 will be etched into Gervais football history.

“I’m not sure what year it was, but it’s been a long, long time,” said Gervais coach Duane Riddell. “It’s really exciting.”

Before the season began, Riddell estimated that the Cougars last made the playoffs when he was just a boy growing up in the 1950s.

“I heard the last time Gervais went to the playoffs was in 1952, and they were first in state that year,” said Cougar senior Adam Jaramillo.

Regardless of when the Cougars last qualified, the team will open the first round on the road against No. 2-ranked Harrisburg this week after finishing the season with their second-straight victory Friday at Amity High School.

Gervais (2-6, 2-4 West Valley) pulled out the victory the same way they did the week before, riding the team’s junior running back Nikita Kalugin to four touchdowns on the ground. Kalugin carried the ball 36 times for 251 yards against the Warriors, as the Cougars amassed more than 400 yards on the ground Friday night.

Kalugin has scored eight touchdowns in the past two games, helping Gervais build on a dominating run game that has overwhelmed both Willamina and Amity.

“We’ve got everything going for us right now,” said Jaramillo. “The running backs are running the best they’ve ever run, Nikita and Jordan (Milkovich) both.”

As early as two weeks ago, Gervais had just dropped its sixth straight game to open the season. But the Cougars scored a 27-12 home victory over the visiting Willamina Bulldogs on Oct. 25 for the team’s first win, which opened the door for the improbable playoff berth.

“That was a big win,” said Jaramillo. “We had our senior night, we hadn’t won all year long, and it was also the dedication of the field to David Miller. It gave us all the extra momentum that we needed, and after we got that win, we knew that was a turning point.”

The victory put Gervais into position to earn the West Valley Conference’s fourth playoff berth. Beating Amity put the Cougars into a three-way tie with the Warriors and the Sheridan Spartans, who all finished the season 2-4.

No team had the advantage of a tie-breaker, because all three had gone 1-1 against each other. That meant the playoff berth would be decided by the point differential between the three teams. If Gervais beat Amity by eight or more points, the Cougars were playoff-bound.

“(The team) didn’t really believe it, and then everyone decided this was something we needed to do,” said Jaramillo.

The victory puts Gervais into a difficult game against the Harrisburg Eagles (8-1, 6-1 PacWest), who enter the playoffs with the best defense in the state out of all six football classifications. Harrisburg has given up just 48 points all season and is coming off 7-6 loss to Blanchet after winning their first eight games of the season.

“They’re a real good team, and we just have to play our game,” said Riddell. “Do the things that we do and we’ll be all right. We’ll just compete and be aggressive.”

Jaramillo and the rest of the team believe that after the recent turnaround, the Cougars have all the tools at their disposal to go down to Harrisburg and upset the Eagles.

“Our defense is looking really good right now. Our defensive backs are stepping up and everyone is excited to get after Harrisburg,” he said. “We need to go in there and keep everything we have going. We just need to keep giving the ball to our running backs and letting our offensive line give it to their defensive line.”

The game will be played Friday night at Harrisburg High School at 7 p.m. If the Cougars win, they will advance to the quarterfinals to face either Clatskanie or Vale.

For a complete bracket of the 3A football players, go to www.osaa.org/activities/fbl/brackets.



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