YAKIMA – Finesse and physical aren’t generally terms one would use in the same sentence to describe the Ferris football team.
When situations dictated as much Saturday afternoon, though, Ferris turned to a dimension of its game it had kept under wraps most of the season.
Quarterback Connor Halliday threw for nearly 300 yards again, but it was the second-half play of running back Gage Orosco and a smack-you-in-the-face defense that lifted the Saxons past previously undefeated Eisenhower 24-14 in a State 4A quarterfinal at Zaepfel Stadium.
Ferris (9-3) will meet Skyview of Vancouver (10-2) at Albi on Saturday.
With a stiff wind limiting the Saxons’ passing game during the two quarters they had to fight against it, coach Jim Sharkey decided to break out the running game. Orosco provided a huge lift.
Orosco rushed for 132 of his game-high 157 yards in the second half including a 76-yard touchdown scamper when he broke past the speedy Cadets secondary and outraced them to the end zone to give the Saxons a 17-7 lead moments after Eisenhower had pulled within 10-7.
He would have finished with closer to 200 yards had a big gainer not been called back for holding.
“We’ve held out for 12 weeks before bringing our power running game out,” Sharkey said. “He (Orosco) was big.”
Ferris took a 10-0 lead into halftime. The Saxons won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. Sharkey did so knowing that with the blustery conditions, he wanted the wind to be at the Saxons’ backs in the fourth quarter.
So all Sharkey wanted after three periods was a lead. Eisenhower (11-1) scored two TDs in the quarter to one by Ferris, trimming the Saxons’ lead to 17-14.
“The wind was a big factor in the third quarter,” he said. “They (the Cadets) took advantage of the wind. We felt if we could have a lead going into the fourth quarter it would be big for us.”
The Cadets couldn’t muster any offense against the wind in the final period. Meanwhile, the Saxons’ final TD came on a nicely executed pump fake by Halliday, who gauged the helping wind perfectly and lofted a pass to receiver Jordan Tonani, who caught it in stride. He could have crawled to the end zone after beating two defenders. The 62-yard TD connection extended the lead to the final margin with 10:39 to go.
Eisenhower had to play the second half without leading rusher Joe Fuerst, who was ejected with 1:36 remaining before intermission when he kicked the helmet of a Saxon after being pushed out of bounds. He had 81 yards on 12 attempts.
“Those things happen and I don’t know if it had any impact on the game,” Ike coach Dan Eyman said.
Fuerst’s replacement, Isaac Sarate, finished with 90 yards on 15 carries and a TD.
Eyman was impressed with Ferris.
“They’re real sound,” he said. “The thing that impressed me that you don’t see on film is how physical they are. They play real well up front on both sides of the ball.”
The Saxons feel as if they’re playing their best at the right time.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Sharkey said. “We want to get over the hump and get a win in the semifinals.”