GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — On a night where they should’ve been in pads and helmets, playing on a football field in Hood River, the Gresham Gophers instead filed into the stands at their own high school last Friday to watch two other teams play.
The plan had always been for Central Catholic to use Gresham’s field for its Holy War matchup against Jesuit while the Gophers faced off against Hood River Valley. But on Friday morning, because of air quality from the Eagle Creek Fire, Gresham’s game was cancelled. And while they had no field to play on, they had to watch their own home get put to use, playing spectator for the night instead of actually playing.
Other KOIN 6 Blitz games this week
Grant 40, Cleveland 0
Tigard 31, Lake Oswego 28
Tualatin 37, Lakeridge 23
“It was painful,” Gresham running back Charles Ndayizeye said. “But we let it go. We had to get ready for this week and we had all our eyes on this week.”
The lengthy, two-week buildup only made the Gophers more excited to get back on the field. They didn’t disappoint, either, beating David Douglas 41-8 in the Mt. Hood conference opener. Ndayizeye and Gophers quarterback Jake Biesterfeld both had 2 rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Austin Pick also added a late touchdown.
Gresham’s dominating performance eased the mind of head coach Mike Melton.
“I was really worried about it,” Melton said about playing after an unexpected week off. “You make your biggest improvement from your first game to your second game. Douglas had already done that, right? So I felt like we were behind the curve.”
Gresham didn’t look like a team needing to shake off any rust in the beginning. The Gophers scored twice within the first 5 minutes of the game, taking advantage of an interception by defensive back Luke Melton in between the two drives.
The Gophers’ offense did slow down, though, failing to add any more points until the 4th quarter. The defense, however, never skipped a beat. Gresham kept David Douglas out of the endzone aside from a 53-yard, 4th quarter touchdown from Kevin Rodriquez-Nava to Jaydin Proctor.
The defense had an idea, coming into Friday’s game, that they could have success against David Douglas.
“We come to every game thinking we could shut anyone down,” defensive back Andrew Sayles said. “That’s our mindset. We practice like it — we practice against our own offense like we can shut them down.”
The Gophers’ defensive performance didn’t go without notice.
Video highlights of other KOIN 6 Blitz games at the bottom of this article
“This school is based off our defense,” Ndayizeye said. “Our defense gets the show going. without them I don’t know if we’d be pouring 41 points on the scoreboard. We count on them, but it falls back on us to score.
Gresham’s defense also added to the explosive 41-point night getting a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Sayles. The fumble came on a botched, reverse handoff from David Douglas. Sayles just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
“I was just praying I could pick it up smoothly so I could run it in for a touchdown,” Sayles said, laughing.
Now Gresham will head into the second week of conference play with a 2-0 record. The Gophers hope the hot season start will continue against Centennial next week.
“It’s a new era coming through,” Ndayizeye said “It’s a new legacy. We’re going to ‘do something’ like coach Willie Taggart says at Oregon.”
Scores and highlights
The rest of the KOIN 6 Blitz highlights from week 3