Lava Bears end a four-year losing skid against the Storm

More than a month ago, Bend High trotted out an offense filled with new players and a defense featuring nine first-year starters. The Lava Bears were inexperienced, and Bend coach Matt Craven will be the first to tell you that it showed in a 29-point road loss to Central.

Five weeks later, this is a brand new Bend team. The Lava Bears do not play like first-time starters, nor do they play with hesitation or uncertainty. And on Friday night against visiting Summit, Bend proved that it is a team to be reckoned with — and did so in dramatic fashion.

On the first play of overtime, Lava Bears quarterback Cooper Simmonds connected with wide receiver Tysen Scott for a 25-yard touchdown pass. And while the point-after attempt sailed wide, Bend held a six-point lead over 5A No. 8-ranked Summit. The Storm converted on fourth down to keep their hopes alive, but Bend’s Austin Jones broke up Summit’s final fourth-down pass to secure the Bears’ 35-29 Class 5A Special District 1 win at Punk Hunnell Stadium and snap their four-game losing streak against a crosstown rival.

“We knew it was going to be a close game,” conceded Bend coach Matt Craven. “Summit has an outstanding football team, we have played well the last four or five games, and I kind of thought this game might come down to the wire. Did I know exactly HOW down to the wire it was going to be? No.

“But these kids have made play after play, and (the Storm) made plays as well. It came down to the very end, and we just made a few more plays than they did down that last stretch.”

Bend never trailed Friday, though the Lava Bears (4-0 SD1, 5-1 overall) did not lead by more than eight points. Summit outgained Bend in total offense, but the Lava Bears’ defense stepped up when called upon, as shown by Bend’s three interceptions, including one with 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that ended Summit’s late-game drive in Bears territory.

That interception, by Bend’s Jakob Kappus, set up overtime heroics, beginning with Simmonds’ touchdown pass to Scott on the first play of the extra period.

“I thought I overthrew him,” Simmonds said. “I thought I got excited and overshot it. But I saw him catch it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah.’”

Bend struck first midway through the first quarter as running back Haakon Kjellesvik sprinted for a 39-yard touchdown. The Storm answered on the ensuing drive with quarterback Henry Bledsoe running for a 3-yard score. The Lava Bears and the Storm (1-3, 2-4) exchanged touchdowns in the second quarter, but Bend grabbed a 22-15 halftime lead with 32 seconds left as Max Arellano rushed for a 2-yard touchdown.

Summit’s Magnus Schmidt ran for a 25-yard score midway through the third period to cut the deficit to 22-21, but, once again, Bend countered with Payton Davis barreling forward for a 3-yard touchdown. With eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Storm tied it 29-29 when Bledsoe hit Oliver Husmann for a 16-yard touchdown, followed by Bledsoe connecting with Ben Graziani for a two-point conversion. After holding Bend to gain possession, though, Summit’s final drive in regulation was stalled in Bend territory by Kappus’ interception. And in overtime, the Lava Bears scored quickly and halted Summit to escape with the win.

For Simmonds, who had just seven completions for 128 yards but had the one touchdown that mattered, it was the sweetest way to end the Lava Bears’ skid against Summit.

“It’s a close game and it’s Summit,” the quarterback said. “I don’t know. It’s good to beat Summit.”

Bledsoe completed 32 of 48 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns for Summit, which hosts Redmond High next week.

Ten Storm players had receptions, led by Konrad Collins, who totaled seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.

With the loss, Summit falls to a tie for fifth place in the league standings with three games remaining. The top four teams qualify for the postseason.

“We’re 100 percent in a pressure situation,” said Storm coach Corben Hyatt. “We have got to win out (to make the postseason). … We’re in a one-week playoff for the rest of the season, and right now, we’ll see how our guys respond on Monday.”

Kjellesvik finished with 118 yards rushing to lead Bend, which takes its five-game winning streak to Hermiston next Friday. Kyle Reed had three receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Lava Bears, who are tied atop the SD1 standings with Mountain View, which is also unbeaten in league play following Friday’s 21-6 win at Pendleton.

“This game is huge,” Craven said. “There will be some parity in the (league). There are a lot of teams playing football at about the same level as you saw tonight. One or two plays are going to make a difference in the game. We have to continue to work hard and give ourselves the best opportunity to be the team that makes that extra play.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,