(Photo by Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News)
The Sailors went into last Friday’s league play-off game at home against Lowell hoping to secure a seed to state for the first time since 2002. And early in the first half, it looked as though Mapleton had the momentum to make it happen.
Though the Red Devils were the first to score with a little over 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Sailors were able to strike back a little over a minute later on a 38-yard bomb from senior quarterback Dominic Wells to freshman wide receiver JJ Neece. While the conversion was denied, it put Mapleton within an easy 2-point striking distance of Lowell, 8-6.
Then, on the ensuing kick-off, an onside kick by Mapleton ended up in the hands of Wells, who recovered the ball on Lowell’s 46-yard line to end the quarter. Finding themselves with 7 yards to go on the third down, Mapleton was able to advance to the 25-yard line for a first down. From there, Wells found Neece on a 25-yard pass into the end zone, followed by a QB keeper for a 2-point conversion — and a 14-8 lead just 48 seconds into the quarter.
On its next possession, Lowell put together a 7-play drive to tie things up at 14-14 after being denied a conversion attempt.
After forcing the Devils to go four-and-out, the Sailors took over deep in their own territory. On its first play of the possession, Mapleton pulled a role reversal in the pocket, with Neece backtracking his way behind the offensive line and Wells running long. Neece connected with Wells on an 18-yard bullet, which Wells carried another 56 yards for a Sailors touchdown.
The conversion failed but Mapleton re-took the lead, 20-14, with 5:51 remaining in the half.
Then, just as quickly as the wind had caught Mapleton’s sails, it shifted in favor of Lowell and never really came back.
The Red Devils put together a 6-play drive for a touchdown that tied the game once again, then moved ahead 22-20 on a conversion.
Lowell then got the ball back with an onside kick that eventually led to a 39-yard touchdown and conversion — and a 30-20 lead. The Devils scored again with 51 seconds left, taking a 36-20 halftime lead.
Coming back from the break, Mapleton attempted an onside kick but Lowell recovered on a high bounce, carrying it in from 58 yards out to move into a 42-20 lead less than 15 seconds into the half.
The Sailors we able to score twice more before the final buzzer, but Lowell came away with the win and the seed to state, 66-32.
The Red Devils (6-3 overall) will play either Friday or Saturday this week in the first round of state play-offs as the Special District 3’s fourth-place team.
Mapleton (4-5) finished 5th after one of its strongest seasons in 15 years.