By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
Moro Andy McFarlane scored on a 36-yard option keeper on Echo's first possession of the game, propelling the Cougars to a shock 34-12 win at Sherman on Friday night.
The victory clinched the third and final playoff spot for the Cougars (5-4, 4-2 Big Sky) in what amounted to a playoff between Echo and Sherman for that final state playoff berth.
Buoyed by a stop on the opening possession of the game, Echo marched down the field and scored the first time they touched the football despite the Huskies keying on the Cougars' key cog, senior tailback Vicente Escalante.
Sherman seemed inclined to make a play on Escalante irrespective of whether he was given the ball, which forced other players to step into the gap and produce.
"They obviously did their homework and assigned a man to follow Vicente around," Echo head coach Norm Stewart said. "Fortunately Andy stepped up and made a play for us."
The score right after stopping Sherman proved to be a huge lift for the team morale, and instilled tangible belief upon the sidelines that the Cougars could play with, and beat, the favored Huskies.
"To be honest, I wasn't concerned with whether we could score the ball on offense, I was more worried about whether we could stop Sherman," Stewart said. "To get a stop and then go down the field and score was really huge."
Escalante scored from 38 yards out on a power-run near the end of the first quarter to make the score 14-0, and Echo was well on the way to a famous victory.
The senior finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Sherman battled back with a touchdown to make it 14-6 at the half, and the thought was that if Echo found it hard to sustain the success the Cougars had shown in the first half, then the Huskies were more than back in the game.
Michael Madison took a reverse 80 yards for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the third quarter, however, to crush any thoughts of a halftime lull and keep Echo's momentum rolling right along.
The Cougars ran the option on that particular play with Madison coming the other way on the reverse, and lineman Kris Fisher delivered a key block and sprung the junior to the house.
The lead piled up to 28-6 at the end of three, yet Stewart was not convinced the game was over just yet.
"It looked pretty good going into the fourth quarter, but the score can change so quickly in eight-man football," Stewart said. "I never consider a game won until the final horn sounds, but the kids seemed really excited"
Echo will travel down early to the southwestern reaches of Oregon for their playoff game, where they will face 9-2 Days Creek on Saturday afternoon.
"We're going to drive down to the Salem area on Thursday and practice there, then we'll drive to Days Creek on Friday and practice there," Stewart said. "We played a semifinal game at Days Creek when I was at Cove and it was a mudpit, and it took our kids a quarter or so to realize they could play in the mud. We want to get the kids as prepared as possible for that."