TRI CITY — South Umpqua’s special 2021 fall football season remained in motion on Friday night.

Junior quarterback Jace Johnson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another, and the defense made some key stops as the third-seeded Lancers eliminated No. 11 Santiam Christian 28-8 on Friday night in a quarterfinal game of the Class 3A football playoffs at Kent Wigle Stadium.

The Lancers (10-1) advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1981. South Umpqua will meet No. 7 Vale (10-1), a 14-6 winner over No. 2 Rainier in the quarterfinals, at 10 a.m. next Saturday at Caldera High School in Bend.

The other semifinal pits No. 5 La Pine (7-3) against No. 1 Siuslaw (10-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cottage Grove High School.

“It feels great,” South Umpqua lineman Brayden Reedy said. “Being a senior, this is what we’ve looked forward to. We’ve worked really hard, but we can’t overlook any team now. I think we’ve got what it takes to finally take this thing home.”

“It’s amazing,” Jace Johnson said. “We have that team chemistry ... we’re all really strong together and use it to our advantage.”

South Umpqua coach Steve Stebbins felt three keys to the game going in were not turning the ball over, winning the big play battle and controlling Santiam Christian’s running game.

The Lancers finished with only one turnover (an interception to end the first half), produced some big plays and held the Eagles (5-5) to 57 yards rushing.

South Umpqua kept Santiam Christian out of the end zone until the Eagles scored on a 64-yard pass play to Jackson Hughes with 17 seconds left in the contest. That came against the S.U. reserves.

It was a bend-but-not-break effort by the Lancers, who gave up 347 yards but stopped S.C. three times inside the red zone. Sophomore inside linebacker Matthew Burnett played perhaps his best game of the season.

“Our defense was outstanding — they’ve been outstanding the last two weeks, only giving up 14 points and that’s why we’re here right now,” Stebbins said. “We shut down the running game and made them one-dimensional. That was a good football game by us.

“That’s a neat deal (being in the final four). I’m happy for the kids they’ve been able to achieve that. A league title, and now the state semifinals. That’s an incredible job by them.”

Caj Simmons rushed for 106 yards on 12 carries for South Umpqua, which led 14-0 at halftime. Jace Johnson completed 15 of 27 passes for 146 yards, with one interception, and added 73 yards rushing on seven attempts.

Isaac Real caught six passes for 68 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Andrew Christensen made four catches for 36 yards.

Isaac Simpson and Kade Johnson also had TD receptions.

The Lancers finished with 352 yards total offense, 206 coming on the ground.

“The hard part was we struggled with the run game,” Stebbins said. “We at times became one-dimensional, but Jace did a good job of spreading the ball around.”

A big swing in the game came in the third quarter.

The Eagles drove from their 35-yard line to the South Umpqua 2, but ended up turning the ball over on downs. The Lancers followed with a 95-yard scoring drive, capped off by an 8-yard shovel pass from Jace Johnson to Kade Johnson with 1:24 left.

S.U. gambled on the drive. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the 14, the Lancers went for it and Simmons took a direct snap and went up the middle and rumbled 61 yards before being tackled at the S.C. 25. South Umpqua scored three plays later.

“I told the kids we needed to shut down that first drive and win the first four minutes of the second half,” Stebbins said. “It didn’t look good for a while, but we stopped them down there and came back and scored. Caj not going down and bouncing up, that was pretty impressive.”

Santiam Christian quarterback Jared Mehlschau passed for 290 yards, with Hughes catching seven balls for 193 yards.

“You try and limit big plays, but you give up a big play here and there,” Reedy said. “We’re very fast (on defense) and have a lot of good guys, and I’m lucky to play with all of them.”

S. Christian 0 0 0 8 — 8

S. Umpqua 7 7 7 7 — 28

First Quarter

SU — Simpson 24 pass from J. Johnson (Moros kick)

Second Quarter

SU — Real 26 pass from J. Johnson (Moros kick)

Third Quarter

SU — K. Johnson 8 pass from J. Johnson (Moros kick)

Fourth Quarter

SU — J. Johnson 29 run (Moros kick)

SC — Hughes 64 pass from Mehlschau (Haase pass from Mehlschau)

Tom Eggers can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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