COTTAGE GROVE — After battling hard for a quarter and a half, Camas Valley ultimately had no answer for St. Paul quarterback TJ Crawford, who propelled the top-seeded Buckaroos to a 46-26 victory over the Hornets in the semifinal round of the Class 1A eight-man state football playoffs Saturday at Don King Field.
The Hornets, the No. 4 seed in the bracket, ended their season at 9-1 overall.
Crawford ran for 206 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 205 and a pair of first-half touchdowns, leading the Buckaroos (11-0) to their 14th state championship game.
“When you get to this point in the season, you’re going to face teams that are stronger than you on the inside,” St. Paul coach Tony Smith said. “You have to be able to run and throw, and having a quarterback with the ability to throw and like he (Crawford) can is huge. That really was the difference in the game.”
St. Paul will face No. 2 seed Adrian, a 74-18 winner over Special District 3 East rival Crane, for the state championship next Saturday. The Buckaroos are seeking their seventh eight-man championship.
“We had a really good season,” senior quarterback/running back Jared Hunt said. “They just had a solid team in every aspect. We played with a lot of effort and I’m really proud of these boys.”
River Wolfe had three first-half touchdowns as the Hornets traded punches with St. Paul from the onset. Wolfe’s 17-yard TD catch from Hunt less than four minutes into the contest gave the Hornets an early 6-0 edge. St. Paul took an 8-6 advantage on Crawford’s 15-yard run midway through the first quarter.
The Hornets regained the edge on a 26-yard pass from Jared Standley to Wolfe, and Tristan Casteel’s pass to Wyatt Dunning on the conversion pushed Camas Valley back into the lead.
A 10-yard TD pass from Crawford to Bryce Williams — and Crawford’s conversion run — regained a 16-14 edge for the Buckaroos in the second quarter, but just 37 seconds later, Wolfe ripped off a 50-yard scoring run as the Hornets regained the advantage, leading 20-16 with 7:33 left before halftime.
After that, it was all Buckaroos.
St. Paul rattled off four consecutive touchdowns, including a 16-yard strike from Crawford to Williams with 4:05 left in the half. Crawford capped the scoring surge with a 76-yard jaunt down the right sideline in the third quarter which put the Buckaroos up 40-20 with 6:33 left in the third.
“We knew we’d have to go out and give our best game, and we played a good game,” Hornets coach Keri Ewing said. “In the beginning, I thought we got them on their heels some. But they capitalized on everything.
“Our kids fought, but (St. Paul) also played a good game.”
The Hornets suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds. Hunt was intercepted three times on passes over the middle and, as a unit, Camas Valley was penalized nine times for 70 yards.
St. Paul did not commit a turnover and was only flagged four times.
“To get to a title and have a chance to win a title, you have to be good in all phases of the game," Smith said. "We were just a little better today with that.”
Hunt ran for 181 yards, most of that from the quarterback position, while Wolfe finished with 57 yards rushing and 43 receiving with three total TDs. Hunt also had 108 yards in kickoff returns, nearly breaking two for touchdowns.
Defensively, Hunt and Wolfe combined for 17 solo tackles, while Standley and Max Brown had six apiece.
Hunt, Wolfe and Nathan O’Connor accounted for tackles for loss.
Williams finished with five catches and 93 yards for St. Paul, while Mitch Curtiss added 88 yards on three receptions and also ran for 66 yards and a score.
Ewing will lose five seniors — Hunt, Tristan and Garrett Casteel, O’Connor and Isaiah Osbon — and will have a strong core returning for 2020. He said they made his first season at the helm memorable.
“It was great,” Ewing said. “These kids gave me everything they had and more than that. They did great. I am proud to coach them. I just wish I could have another with with the same group.”
“It’s OK,” Hunt said of the loss. “We had a wonderful season.”
Camas Valley 6 14 6 0 — 26
St. Paul 8 20 12 6 — 46
CV — Wolfe 17 pass from Hunt (pass failed), 8:22
SP — Crawford 15 run (Williams pass from Crawford), 5:01
CV — Wolve 26 pass from Standley (Dunning pass from Casteel), 10:19
SP — Williams 10 pass from Crawford (Crawford run), 8:00
CV — Wolfe 50 run (pass failed), 7:33
SP — Williams 16 pass from Crawford (run failed), 4:05
SP — Curtis 47 run (pass failed), 2:55
SP — Grasso 6 run (run failed), 9:26
SP — Crawford 76 run (run failed), 6:33
CV — Hunt 3 run (run failed), 56:12
SP — Crawford 31 run (run failed), 8:19
CV — Hunt 20-181, Wolfe 4-57, Standley 4-14, Dunning 2-(-4); SP — Crawford 21-206, Curtis 6-66, Martinez 11-44, Grasso 5-13, team 1-4.
CV — Hunt 5-12-3 73, Standley 1-2-0 26; SP — Crawford 10-17-0 205.
CV — Dunning 3-17, Wolfe 2-43, T. Casteel 1-39; SP — Williams 5-93, Curtis 3-88, Scott 2-24.