The Grant Union Prospectors battled No. 1-ranked Monroe in the OSAA first round state playoffs Saturday, Grant Union falling 49-0 on the Dragons’ turf.

Grant Union, No. 16, ended their season with a 5-5 overall record, finishing second in the 2A Special District 6 with a 3-1 record.

Grant Union head coach Jason Miller said a pivotal moment in their season came when they defeated the Umatilla Vikings 30-20 on Sept. 21 in John Day.

“We were able to hit some key passes offensively and make some big stops on defense against a talented team,” Miller said. “I think that game was a big confidence boost.”

The Prospectors hosted Monroe early in the season on Sept. 9, Grant Union taking a 20-8 loss.

In Saturday’s game, the Dragons showed their strength. Miller said his boys fought hard but were outmatched by a bigger, faster, stronger and more experienced team.

Besides the size difference, Monroe’s team, led by Bill Crowson, included seven seniors to Grant Union’s two.

The score was 28-0 at the half.

“We were able to string a couple of drives together that ended near the 20 but could not punch it in,” Miller said.

He said his younger players gained experience and improved their football knowledge and fundamentals over the season.

If all the Prospector juniors return, Grant Union will have six seniors next season.

Running backs Russell Hodge and Taylor Hunt and lineman Drew Lusco plan to return for their senior year of football.

Hodge said the team is proud they made it further than many thought they would.

“I think we’ll be a lot better next season,” he said. “We’re not going to be as young.”

Hunt said the team played hard in Saturday’s game.

He said next year they’ll have greater numbers, with potentially eight freshmen.

“We’re going to be a lot more experienced,” he said. “I’m pretty excited for what’s going to happen.”

Lusco said the team now needs to prepare.

“We have to focus on next year — work in the off season with weights and other sports,” he said. “We had a great year with a great group of guys.”

Miller hopes this season will be one they can build off of to make another run into the playoffs.

“I am extremely proud of the progress and success of this team,” he said. “All of these young men should be proud of their season.”

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