Football state championship game preview: Estacada and Tillamook to battle for each program’s first Class 4A championship

Someone is coming home with their first state championship in program history on Saturday night, as Estacada and Tillamook battle for the Class 4A title.

Both teams have been fighting to the top of the classification for decades. Tillamook’s last trip to the state title game was in 1977 while the Rangers haven’t played for a state title since 1953.

The Class 4A title game will be on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

Take a look at the two teams competing in Saturday’s contest:

No. 5 Estacada (11-1)

From the very first week of the season, it was clear that this Estacada team was good. The Rangers lost 26-14 to Mazama (the eventual No. 1 seed in the state tournament) but the game showed that Estacada could hang with an elite team.

Then came wins over Scappoose and La Grande in the next two weeks. After three weeks, coach Andy Mott knew this team was going to be special.

“Starting the season off with some of the top teams in state was a good test for us, and really set the tone for the rest of the season,” Mott said. “We wanted to be challenged early against some of the state’s best. Looking back, the loss in the opener was probably the best thing that could have happened to our team as it became motivation the rest of the way as we followed that game with big wins over Scappoose and La Grande.”

The Rangers have 16 seniors, including six senior linemen. As a team that lives by the run game, Estacada’s senior leadership has been a major spark this fall, Mott said.

“This group of kids have played together for a long time and had the experience of a playoff run last season that ended with losing in the semi finals as motivation to come back and challenge for the title as seniors.”

After a nearly 70-year drought of state championship games, Mott said Saturday’s game is a rallying cry for the whole Estacada community.

“This game means everything to our school and community,” he said. “The support the school and community gives this program is unmatched. This is one of those places where the entire community is part of this team and program. It’s an exciting time to be a Ranger.”

No. 6 Tillamook (10-2)

After two weeks, the Cheesemakers looked like anything but a championship team with losses to Marshfield and Banks. The Cheesemakers lost three starting linemen from 2021, and the lack of experience up front showed.

“Those were close games that we lost, but our skill guys were way ahead of our offensive line group as we got the season underway,” said coach Kye Johnson. “We didn’t do a great job up front in the first couple of weeks and it put a lot of pressure on our backfield to make up for that.”

But since the opening weeks of the season, the Tillamook line has really turned things around, and the Cheesemakers are on a 10-game winning streak for it.

The Tillamook defense has also been a crucial part of the team this fall. The Cheesemakers are allowing just 12.4 points per game, among the lowest in Class 4A.

“We’ve been good in the red zone defensively and in large part that’s because our box defenders have been so tough,” Johnson said. “They cause havoc. They fly around and force the issue. We have some tough bodies to move at the line of scrimmage and linebackers who get to the football with tenacity.”

With the first championship game in nearly 50 years coming up, Johnson said the Tillamook community is red hot and will be in full force on Saturday.

“Our community and fans are fired up,” said Johnson. “They’ll travel really well with us again on Saturday. The home games we had to end the season were some of the best high school football atmosphere’s I’ve been a part of. It has been an awesome level of support. High school sports are important to our community in Tillamook and this season has meant a lot.”

Johnson said the keys to Saturday’s game are winning the turnover battle, getting consistent first downs and finishing in the red zone.

— Nik Streng,, @NikStreng

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