Foothill High quarterback Jayden Gordon runs the ball against Lassen Friday night in a 31-28 victory. Gordon accounted for more than 400 yards and four TDs in the win. (Photo by Mike Daly).
PALO CEDRO – Foothill has been waiting for a signature win to propel it for the rest of its season.
An 18-point comeback paired with a late fourth quarter defensive stop in the final game of non-league action is exactly what the Cougars needed as Foothill rallied in the second half to beat Lassen 31-28 Friday night at Bill Johnson Community Stadium.
Trailing 21-3 at half, the Cougars scored 22 straight points behind the arms and legs of quarterback Jayden Gordon to take their first lead early in the fourth. Lassen answered with a 39-yard touchdown in a two-minute drive but Gordon struck again, finding Chris Ostergren for a 32-yard go-ahead touchdown with 4:26 left.
Lassen converted fourth-and-one on the ensuing drive with 2:06 remaining but bruising running back Tucker St. Andre fumbled the ball into the hands of Foothill’s Dylan Wiegand three plays later inside the Foothill 20 yard line. Gordon knelt twice and ran out the final three seconds of the clock on fourth down to seal the win.
“I’m proud of the kids at half, their heads weren’t down or there wasn’t a lack of emotion or lackluster locker room; it was a bunch of guys trying to solve a problem,” Foothill head coach Joey Brown said. “We have a lot of guys that grew up tonight and it was exactly what I wanted in non-league – to see our guys challenged and to see them persevere.”
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“I think tonight showed our passing game finally opened up, which will make our offense a lot more lethal,” Gordon said.
Lassen caught a groove early, scoring on its first possession with quarterback Hayden Chittock keeping it for a 5-yard run. After trading turnovers – Foothill’s Brandon Merryman picking off Chittock twice and Gordon tossing an interception of his own – the Cougars settled for a 22-yard field goal from Jared Martin.
But it would be the only points the Cougars would score before half despite four trips to the red zone. Lassen capitalized on missed opportunities with St. Andre running up the gut for a 19-yard touchdown and Chittock connecting with Chandler Monahan for a 78-yard score to lead 21-3 at the break.
“When we came out of the locker room, it was only 18 points,” Gordon said. “Last year we came back from deeper deficits and it’s possible. We were playing our game, just turning the ball over so if we limit our turnovers and limit their big plays then we were going to be able to come back and pull out the win.”
Foothill did just that.
Gordon ignited the Cougars sideline with a 73-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter. He appeared down but broke a couple of tackles and turned on his track star speed to race to the end zone. Foothill cut it to a one-score game on its next possession as Gordon orchestrated an 11-play scoring drive that the Cougars twice converted on fourth down to keep it alive. It ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Merryman and Ostergren caught the 2-point play to trail 21-18.
Foothill’s defense forced a Lassen punt and Gordon’s short third down completion to Caleb Rowe turned into an 81-yard touchdown for a 25-21 lead with 10:44 left.
“It’s just starting to click,” said Foothill senior receiver Chris Jacobsen, who caught four passes for 40 yards. “Jayden Gordon is an amazing quarterback and he makes some ridiculous plays and we love being around him as a wide receiving corps.”
After giving up 287 yards in the first half, Foothill’s defense held Lassen to 41 yards on its first three drives of the second half. But the Grizzlies aired it out four straight plays before a long bomb over the middle to Dallin Lee put them ahead 28-25 with 8:42 remaining.
That was plenty of time for Gordon to work his magic. He completed a seven-yard pass to Merryman on fourth-and-three to extend the drive before hooking up with Ostergren for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
“I was supposed to run a seam and cut across the middle but I found an open lane, spun off the dude and I’m happy about it,” said Ostergren, who caught four passes for 59 yards.
Foothill defense came up with its fourth takeaway with 1:17 left and the Cougars celebrated a hard-fought comeback victory.
Lassen’s Chittock competed 13 of 21 passes for 308 yards and ran for another 35 yards. Monahan received the bulk of the work from Chittock, catching eight passes for 187 yards and one score. St. Andre ran for 74 yards and had a 42-yard catch.
Merryman had five catches for 62 yards and the two interceptions on defense while Hunter Woodward ran for 51 yards on 12 carries.
Foothill (2-2) hosts Paradise (2-1) to open Eastern Athletic League play next week.