FRENCHTOWN — For the No. 6 seeded Corvallis Blue Devils, forgetting their problems — in truth, running away from them — led to a 28-23 upset win Friday night against No. 3 seed Frenchtown in the first round of the state football playoffs.
You'd expect as much from the gritty triple-option team.
Corvallis' flex-bone scheme and fake handoffs nearly cost them in the first half, though, as an inadvertent whistle wiped out a sure-fire touchdown and saw the Blue Devils trailing 17-8 at the break.
With Frenchtown's Jace Klucewich firing on all cylinders — the Bronc phenom had two first-half touchdowns and an interception — the begrudged call seemed paramount.
"I'm like holy cow man, this is a touchdown, right?" said Corvallis quarterback Liang Liedle, who broke free on the play as the Frenchtown defense — and refs — focused on a different back. "Then the whistle. It just blew my mind — we were down."
But Corvallis wasn't out.
On the first drive of the second half, the Blue Devils marched 69 yards and chewed up nearly four minutes to find the end zone. This time Liedle got his touchdown from 19 yards out, and he followed it up with a 2-point pass to Jakob Dalbey.
With 7:02 remaining, Corvallis trailed by just one, 17-16.
"So proud of them (to overcome that)," Corvallis coach Clayton Curley said.
On the next Frenchtown drive, a holding call wiped out a 36-yard scoring run from Ben Larson and the Blue Devils ultimately held on fourth down.
From there it was a steady dose of run, largely from bruising full back Hunter Pinheiro. The senior, who broke the school record for rushing touchdowns with 22 on the year, added two more second-half TDs to go along with a first-half rushing plunge.
His third score came from a yard out and gave Corvallis a 28-17 lead with 6:38 remaining in the game.
"We trust each other to do our jobs," Pinheiro said. "That's when we roll as an offense."
Frenchtown's ensuing drive ended in an interception, as Jaymark Liedle came up with a pick for Corvallis, but the Broncs thwarted the Blue Devils slow and surging offense on the next series.
One Frenchtown play later, the Broncs reminded fans they should stay in their seats.
Quarterback Cade Baker found Klucewich on a screen pass that the Frenchtown receiver took 60 yards to the house. With 1:43 remaining, the Broncs had new life on another electrifying play from the underclassman.
"He's a once-in-a-lifetime athlete," Frenchtown coach Ryne Nelson said of Klucewich. "He just kind of brings everything to the table which is kind of rare for a kid that young."
The Broncs were able to stem the Blue Tide one more time, but Frenchtown was left with 9 seconds and 56 yards to go.
Corvallis senior Jace Barcus ultimately ended the game with an interception.
"It was pretty crazy. First time for us winning a state playoff game since we've been in Class A... It's pretty exciting," Barcus said.
With the win, the Blue Devils (6-4 overall) advance to face the East's No. 2 seed, Laurel.