EUGENE – When Noah Blair connected with Walker Bonar on a 97-yard touchdown pass for the game’s opening score Friday night, you got the sense that it was going to be a night to remember.
It was a rainy night … and the two Thurston seniors were making it rain touchdown passes.
“They’ve been phenomenal all year and they took it to another level here in the playoffs,” Thurston coach Justin Starck said after his No. 8-seeded team’s 37-24 victory over No. 9 Dallas in the opening round of the state football playoffs.
Thurston (8-2) will play Friday night at No. 1-ranked Wilsonville – a rematch from Week 1, when Wilsonville won 44-15.
Against Dallas, Blair accounted for five TDs. He was 17-of-25 for 326 yards passing and four scores, and he ran the ball six times for 20 yards and one TD. Bonar hauled in 11 receptions for 193 yards.
That 97-yarder was something special.
“Noah put it right on me,” Bonar said moments after the game. “I saw nothing but green grass ahead of me and I tried to hit the burners and I did. It was the first TD of the game and it changed the energy of the game.”
However, Dallas’ Landon Holbrook returned the ensuing kickoff to the Colts 42, and three plays later, Dragons quarterback Isaiah Mosley scored from 10 yards out to tie the game, 7-7. The Colts needed multiple tacklers to stop Mosley in the wet conditions on several occasions.
“We had too many penalties, and we didn’t tackle well,” Starck said. “We have so much work to do – we have a lot of stuff that we need to clean up if we expect to compete.”
The Blair-to-Bonar 97-yard score came at the 6:09 mark of the first quarter. At the 6:03 mark of the second quarter, the Colts took a 14-7 advantage on Luke Newell’s 18-yard touchdown catch.
And while the 97-yarder was the highlight-reel play of the night, Thurston’s six-play, 60-yard drive just before halftime was a sequence that took much of the air out of Dallas’ sails. A 14-yard pass from Blair to Bonar finished off that drive and, for all practical purposes, finished off the Dragons (6-4).
Blair and Bonar said they’re eager to get a second chance against Wilsonville.
“We’re a whole different team now,” Blair said. “We’ve improved so much since we last played them, we’re so much better now. … Plus, we have Walker back now!”
“I snapped my collarbone in half in the Les Schwab Bowl over the summer,” Bonar said. “So I missed the first two games. It feels great now, I have some metal in there.”
The main key to beating Wilsonville? Blair said the Colts just have to focus on not self-destructing.
“We just have to worry about ourselves, and play our game, and not let anything else get in the way,” he said.
There was some controversy over the OSAA’s seeding process that gave Thurston an 8-seed and Springfield a 4-seed – even though the Colts defeated the Millers handily and won their league. They were penalized, though, for playing a tougher non-league schedule, as they lost their first two games of the season.
“I have no control over the seeding,” Starck said. “The computer formula that the OSAA uses gave us the 8-seed, even though we’re the fourth-ranked team in the state. It’s pretty frustrating.”
Starck said he still plans to play against tough competition in the future.
“I guess it can bite you both ways,” he said. “You want to play good teams and hopefully beat them to ensure a good ranking – but you want to get the ranking you deserve.”