Columbia River quarterback Gabe Evenson pointed to the sky as wide receiver Marcus Gaylor ran down the right sideline at Memorial Stadium.
Evenson and Gaylor hooked up for an 83-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining to clinch a 22-15 comeback victory for the Chieftains over Cleveland Friday night.
Columbia River secured its second straight trip to the state playoffs.
“That was crazy,” Gaylor said of his game-winning catch. “I can’t even explain it.”
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All signs pointed to Cleveland sneaking away with a win, but the Eagles were stopped on their fourth-down attempt from Columbia River’s 8-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Cleveland chose to let quarterback Amonte Phillips air it out instead of attempting a 25-yard field goal.
Two plays later, Evenson found a wide-open Gaylor for a touchdown that lit up the crowd and eliminated Cleveland from the postseason.
“At first, I thought I overthrew it, because I was really anxious,” Evenson said. “But when I saw him get a hold of it, he was gone down the sideline, and I was so glad.”
In what developed into a defensive stalemate much of the evening, Columbia River got on the board first when Vincent Daniels returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles and Chieftains each scored a pair of first-half touchdowns but were unable to break the 15-15 tie for 26 minutes.
“We struggled to get going,” Columbia River coach John O’Rourke said. “Give Cleveland credit. They played well, and they put us on our heels.”
Thanks to Gaylor’s touchdown, the Chieftains have a chance to improve on last year’s campaign, which ended with a 20-14 defeat to Kennedy Catholic in the round-of-16.