By Dave Ball
Estacada’s offensive line had one goal this postseason, and that was to knock down everyone that came in its path.
The Rangers boast one of the largest lines in the state in a group of all seniors, weighing in at an average of 250 pounds.
“We have all of these strong, physical guys, and we just move people out of the way,” said right guard Dominic Nacoste.
The boys up front got all the motivation they needed after a loss in the semifinals last fall. That meant an endless string of summer days pumping iron. When the group returned to the field this year, it was like seeing Goliath hit a growth spurt.
“We knew what we wanted, and the weight room was the way to get there — that is where championships are won,” said right tackle Cody White, the behemoth of the group at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds.
White has offers from several in-state NAIA schools and is in talks with Oregon State and Washington State.
The Rangers don’t make any secret about their plans on offense. Coach Andy Mott and his staff have a playbook filled with loaded-backfield sets — often three running backs crowded behind a quarterback in Cory James who is also dangerous on his feet.
It is as discreet as a wrecking ball.
You see it coming, but you are powerless to stop it.
“It’s no secret that we like to run the ball — it’s a huge advantage when you can control the ball,” Mott said. “They are big guys, but they are also smart and athletic — they can really move out there. It doesn’t matter how many people defenses pack into the box — they just want to keep going at ’em.”
The Rangers’ power game was in full effect during Saturday’s 32-8 win over Tillamook, setting a state championship game record for time of possession by holding the ball for more than 35 minutes. Estacada built a 3-to-1 ratio on the clock, keeping Tillamook’s offense standing still on the sideline most of the night.
“That is exactly what we wanted to do — that is Ranger football,” Mott said.
The killer drive came to open the second half when Estacada ran 16 plays and took almost nine minutes off the clock, ending in a 31-yard field goal by Ben Haefs that expanded the lead to 25-0.
“That drive was everything — it took the whole quarter,” Nacoste said. “It’s really hard to come back from that far down.”
The Rangers ran the ball 67 times for 329 yards Saturday, averaging five yards per attempt.
“Anything beyond the line of scrimmage is a success,” White said. “We know if we keep getting those two- and three-yard chunks, we’ll just keep chugging along.”
James ran for 68 yards and two touchdowns, including an 18-yarder around the right side that iced the game in the fourth quarter.
“Those holes are three-, four-, five-feet wide — you could really drive a small car through a lot of them,” James said.
Despite the wreckage they leave in their wake after each snap, the group could also be described as gentle giants, often reaching down to bring their opponents to their feet after the whistle. When the clock went to zeroes Saturday night, left tackle Andrew Turner could be seen embracing and encouraging several Cheesemakers who had fallen to their knees in disappointment.
“We are all kids out there, and if I was in their shoes, that is what I would want to happen,” Turner said. “It hurts to lose, but they have had an amazing season and they should be proud of that.”
The big three rarely leave the field, also seeing time on the defensive side with White and Nacoste as run-stoppers up front, while Turner rushes the quarterback from his outside linebacker spot. The group combined for 11 tackles Saturday.
The other starters on the offensive line are left guard Jaden Arnold and center Mariano Martinez.
“We want to dominate,” Nacoste said. “We love playing the whole game — we feed off of that.”