Prairie heads into Class 3A Greater St. Helens League schedule with momentum

Falcons coming off a spirited win over district-rival Battle Ground

Prairie Falcons (1-3)

Week 1: Heritage 28, Prairie 14

Week 2: Hockinson 42, Prairie 6

Week 3: Black Hills 25, Prairie 22

Week 4: Prairie 21, Battle Ground 20

Next: Prairie vs. Evergreen, 4:30 p.m. Friday at McKenzie Stadium

Sometimes things just seem to even out. A week ago, the Falcons lost a game they feel they should have won. This week, they won a game, and they know they were fortunate. But it does prove that statistics only show part of the game, not all of it. And special teams matter.

Winning time:

Prairie quarterback Jayson Maddux had several key plays on the Falcons’ game-winning drive in last week’s win over Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz
Prairie quarterback Jayson Maddux had several key plays on the Falcons’ game-winning drive in last week’s win over Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Prairie offense did, for lack of a better word, nothing.

Nothing for a half anyway.

Almost nothing for three quarters.

But with the game on the line, as the Falcons were facing the prospect of an 0-4 start to their season, their offense came alive.

Quarterback Jayson Maddux was 2 for 3 for 31 yards on the GW drive. His incompletion was when he threw it away to avoid a sack.

Maddux also had three carries for 11 yards, including one run on for a fourth-down conversion.

Aaron Brumley had the play of the night for the Falcons on offense. He had an 18-yard run to get Prairie into the red zone. On that play, he broke five tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage.

And Izaiah Ward had the longest play of the 77-yard drive. He caught a pass from Maddux, turned upfield and recorded a 25-yard gain to get the Falcons into Battle Ground territory.

In all, the Falcons went 77 yards on 10 plays.

This after the Falcons had 55 yards of offense through three quarters.

Special special teams:

So how did Prairie keep this close, with just 55 yards on offense through three quarters?

Well, the defense performed a bend-but-not-break-too-many-times strategy. The Tigers gained a lot of yards, but only scored three touchdowns. Carson Slagle had two fourth-down tackles to end Battle Ground drives.

But this game was decided with special teams.

Battle Ground, up 14-0 at the half, tried a surprise onside kick to open the second half. Did not surprise Prairie. Payton Millet not only recovered the onside kick for Prairie, he returned it for a touchdown.

Just like that, the Falcons had life.

Later, the Prairie punt return team sent a number of Falcons to rush the Battle Ground punter. The punter, standing at the back of his end zone, fumbled the snap, picked up the ball, and by then was in a rush. The punt went off the side of his foot, and Prairie took over at the Battle Ground 13-yard line.

The Falcons scored the next play.

So yes, Prairie, which trailed 12-0 at the half and with an offense that was struggling, needed just one offensive play in the third quarter to take a 14-12 lead.

Perseverance:

Even with all that, Battle Ground would regain the lead in the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion made it 20-14.

Prairie was in need of offense. The Falcons showed up just in time.

Coach Speak:

What did Kevin Baker learn about his team in Week 4? “I’d rather focus on what was reaffirmed in this game. Last week, we suffered through a loss due to poor special teams play (we had a punt blocked for a TD and another run back for a TD) and penalties (20). We emphasized the importance of special teams in creating momentum in a game. We worked at improving our special teams and focused on our mental discipline to give us a better chance of success.

“Our efforts paid off. We reduced our penalties considerably, had great coverage and protection on our punts, and we turned the game around with a kickoff return for a momentum-changing TD. We reaffirmed the importance of focus, special teams, and momentum.”

MVP on offense: “Although the tendency after a victory is to give the awards to kids who crossed the goal line, we look closely at the kids up front who make it possible. Conner French was selected as the offense player of the game,” Baker said.
French is a sophomore center who came in off the bench and did a “great job” of snapping the ball and stopping the penetration of Battle Ground’s nose guard, the coach said. “It all starts with the line.”

MVP on defense: “We had solid performances from several players but felt that the efforts of Riley Frazier were noteworthy,’’ Baker said. “We moved Riley to defensive end (last week). Battle Ground’s blocking schemes require the defensive ends to take on the lead blocker and spill the play outside. Riley did a good job of spilling the play and making it bounce outside where we could run it down. While other kids were making the tackles, Riley was making it possible.”

Thoughts on Week 5 vs. Evergreen:

“We are looking forward to playing Evergreen. The start of the conference season brings its own challenges and rewards. We get to put into practice everything we have learned in our first four games. We think we match up pretty well. It is going to be a fun game to coach, play, and watch.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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