BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — During practice at Southridge High School, while the offense and defense run drills in the middle of the field, you can find Skyhawks kicker Nathan Mercer on the sideline, doing his one job. For 2.5 hours, Mercer will kick, running drills on his own.
Sometimes, Mercer will even set up garbage cans, aim at them and try to knock them over with pinpoint accuracy rarely found on a kickoff. On Friday, Mercer’s arbitrary practice caused the greatest momentum swing in a game filled with them.
After Southridge scored its first touchdown of the game, trailing Westview 20-7 in the third quarter, Mercer found a target and kicked a laser, bouncing off a Wildcats player on the front line and back into the Skyhawks’ possession.
“He was aiming for him,” Southridge coach Kevin Bickler said. “and he hit him right square in the chest.”
Southridge ended up scoring 4 second-half touchdowns en route to a 29-23 comeback win over the Wildcats.
“We tell them, ‘Never let up, never let up,’ and it’s something we’ve been working on” coach Bickler said. “They executed really well tonight. They always believed they could come back in this game.”
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Southridge quarterback Bradley Bickler threw 3 touchdown passes, including 2 to Michael Pluck to help the Skyhawks comeback from a 20-0 halftime deficit. Running back Blake Sims gave Southridge the lead for good with a 47-yard touchdown late in the 4th quarter.
Westview had a chance to tie or take the lead, but their drive stalled inside Southridge’s red zone.
The first quarter was a defensive battle between the two teams, but in the second, Westview’s offense started clicking. Freshman quarterback JJ Woodin, making his second career start, found a connection with wide receiver Michael Evan Williamson. Woodin hit Williamson in stride for a 70-yard touchdown before coming back the next drive and finding Williamson again for another score.
It looked like Southridge was finding a rhythm of its own in the second, driving deep into Westview territory, but Wildcats safety Patrick Maddox intervened, intercepting a Bickler pass and returning it 98 yards for the score.
A Southridge comeback appeared unlikely, but on the second-to-last play of the half, Woodin took a hit and injured his right wrist, knocking him out for the rest of the game. Westview wouldn’t find the end zone for the rest of the night, but Southridge’s relationship with paydirt was just beginning.
Bickler had threw 2 touchdown passes to Pluck and one to Keyvaun Eady to give the Skyhawks its first lead of the game.
“I told my guys keep believing,” Bickler said. “We worked all summer for comebacks like this.”
Westview responded with a 4th quarter field goal from Kaden Barrowcliff to retake the lead with less than 7 minutes left, once again putting the pressure on Southridge for a comeback.
On the ensuing drive, near midfield, Southridge called a read-pass option, giving Bickler the chance to decide on the fly if he would hand it off or throw. When he caught the snap, the 6-foot-7 quarterback looked and saw an opening.
“I trust Blake and I saw this seam,” said Bickler about handing the ball off. “I thought he went out of bounds.”
But Sims didn’t. Instead he sprinted down the sideline for the game-winning score.
The win puts the Skyhawks at 2-3 on the season. All 3 losses came against top 10 teams in the state, including No. 2 ranked Sheldon. Like they did in the second half, Friday’s win has the Skyhawks believing.
“I’m just so impressed with n how they’re coming together and maturing,” coach Bickler said.
Scores and highlights
Other KOIN 6 Blitz highlights from Week 4