Randy Robbins

After running the ranks of the Sunset Conference and defeating bunkmate Bandon 48-12 last Friday, the (5-0) Gold Beach Panthers not only earned the league championship but in the process, punched their tickets to a first-round home playoff spot in the Oregon School’s Athletic Association (OSAA) 2A Football State Championship.

Sixth-ranked GBHS, will host No. 11 Oakland 7 p.m. Friday evening at Jay Johnson Stadium in a game that Panther head football coach, Justin Storns, describes as “important” outlining the challenge for his newly crowned champs.

“The Oakers will bring a physical game, they possess some pretty decent size and have a good passing game,” Storns said in reference to Oakland’s durable 5’ 11”-180 pound quarterback, senior Andrew Harrington, who is both able to scramble out of the pocket and accurately throw on the run, or simply tuck the ball in and get big gains himself. That could potentially create containment headaches for Team GB.

The 2A Mountain league runner up is 2-3 in league and 5-3 overall but closer scrutiny reveals that those numbers may be misleading.

The Oakers are part of a small three-team league and it should be noted that two of their losses came at the hands of No. 2 Monroe. OHS kept the games interesting, losing by scores of 14-34 and 14-35 respectively.

The Panthers boss understands that the leap from No. 2 Monroe to No. 6 where Gold Beach resides in the rankings could well mean a tighter game on paper than the 20 points the Oakers gave up in two outings against the Dragons. But Storns isn’t concerned about stuff on paper. Gold Beach is the master of its own destiny.

“We(Gold Beach) need to play well to advance.”

And the Panthers have become a formidable force, piling up close to 350 yards of offense against No. 14 Bandon, a team that will be hanging out with GBHS in the same bracket.

In Friday’s homecoming win, 185 of the Panthers yards came on the ground courtesy of Panther tailback, senior Yancy Rangel, with another 60 being chipped in by quarterback Taylor Mather on keepers. The Panther’s versatile third year QB also connected in the air, hitting his wide receivers for another 100 yards on the night.

It is this effective blend of run and gun that Gold Beach is counting on to advance as GBHS traverses the treacherous waters of the 2A state championships. The addition of a lethal passing game should make opposing teams wary of what used to be a one dimensional Panther running approach.

Last year the Panthers succumbed to Heppner 20-55 at the same place where GBHS now stands. Storns and company feel like they have the tools in the chest to take it to the next level. A year older and wiser, these tight knit seniors have shook off their league rivals this year to lay claim to the top spot outright, vanquishing both co-champs Reedsport and Toledo in the process.

This time there will be no ‘sharing’ of their title.

Gold Beach starts its championship climb with that knowledge firmly in mind.

(Gold Beach vs. Oakland will be broadcast live on KGBR 92.7 FM and live streamed at KGBR.com.)