By Chad Robert Snyder
Pilot staff writer
The Gold Beach High School varsity boys football team came up two scores short of claiming their second straight 3A state title Saturday night at Hillsboro City Stadium.
The Panthers "uncharacteristically" put the ball on the ground four times in the 28-14 loss to the Grant Union Prospectors, according to Head Coach Kevin Swift.
"We didn't have our best game," he said.
The Panthers found themselves down 28-7 after three quarters of play. Fullback Travis Moore scored his second touchdown of the evening with 4:24 remaining in the game after a nine-play, 88-yard drive. Gold Beach forced a punt on the ensuing Prospector possession, only to have their title dreams dashed by an interception in the waning seconds of the contest.
Swift said he had mixed feelings about the game.
"We're disappointed, but we're very proud of our players," he said.
As Swift suggested, there was much to be proud of, regardless of outcome.
Individually, Moore put in another workman performance for the Panthers he ran the ball 20 times for 109 yards and contributed 6 solo tackles and a forced fumble from the linebacker position.
"As usual (Moore) showed up and played the kind of game he always does," Swift said. "He's very humble, but he's also an amazing athlete. He'll be hard to replace."
Moore is a senior and the state title game was his last as a Gold Beach player.
In Gold Beach's third appearance in the title game in five years, Swift said inexperience at certain positions was an issue.
"(Grant Union) took advantage of some of the weaknesses we've been able to disguise all year," he said.
The issue, according to Swift, is not the quality of the players, only the amount of time they have at their positions. Last year the team was comprised of 24 upper-classman. As a result, the Panthers lost 14 seniors who had helped lead them to a commanding victory in the state title game last season.
This year, with only six juniors coming into the program, Swift had three sophomores in "critical positions."
"That's unheard of for a team competing for a state title," he said.
The upside: next year's team looks good, according to Swift, both in terms of personnel and the residual work-ethic of the Panthers.
"The guys were in (Monday morning) lifting weighs, chomping at the bit for next year," he said.
"I think we work harder than any other team in the state," he said. "We'll continue to he a team that the rest of the state has to deal with."
Swift said the 2008 season was positive, but that it's time for next year's team to focus on the future.
"Again, I'm very, very proud of them, but we don't accept losing so we're going back to work," he said.
"Our goal every year is to be in the state title game," Swift said. "And as long as I'm here, that's not going to change."
For however long that may be, Oregon 3A football should be on notice.
"We'll be back," Swift said, "I guarantee it.
"We'll be back."