LITHIA — Before the huge district game between Durant and Newsome, Cougars coach Mike Gottman said his team had spent years working toward this chance to secure prime playoff positioning.
Three hours later, his Cougars had rolled to a 33-14 victory Friday night for their first-ever win against Newsome and had given themselves the inside track to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“It’s a playoff win, that’s how we were treating it, like the first round of the playoffs,” Gottman said. “I feel pretty good about our chances.”
Trailing 7-6, Durant (5-2, 2-1) came out in the second half and rattled off 29 unanswered points behind the dominant push of its offensive line. Quarterback Nick Fabrizio and running back Jamarlon Hamilton took turns pounding the ball on the Cougars’ first drive of the third quarter. On the seventh play of the drive Hamilton leaped over the line from 2 yards out to give the Cougars their first lead.
Hamilton finished with 172 rushing yards and that touchdown on 27 carries.
After adding his own rushing touchdown, Fabrizio and wide receiver Reggie Gainer connected for their second score of the game, this one a 26-yard bullet down the left sideline that put Durant ahead 26-7. On the Cougars’ next drive, freshman Chris Atkins added a 10-yard touchdown run to give Durant a 26-point lead.
“I saw him out of the corner of my eye and took a shot,” Fabrizio said of his second touchdown pass. “I didn’t think he caught it,” he added with a laugh.
“If it wasn’t for our O-line, none of that would have been possible,” Gainer said.
Newsome (3-4, 1-2) went to its no-huddle offense in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Will Worth hit Jorge Thompson with a 10-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.
But it was too little, too late, and the Cougars players doused Gottman with a tub of water as they went celebrating into the night.