COTTAGE GROVE, Ore--- With just over two minutes left in the 4A State Championship game, Mazama found itself holding on for dear life. The Vikings were clinging to a 27-21 lead over Marist Catholic. The Brosterhous-described "death grip" that Cole Brosterhous put on the ball would seal the Vikings' opportunity to grip a State Championship trophy.
The game's ending is very characteristic of the entire game, close.
Mazama, attempting to win its first State Championship in school history, came out firing on all cylinders.
The Vikings forced an early punt from Marist Catholic and then got methodical. Mazama's first offensive drive consisted of five consecutive runs. On the 6th and final play of the drive, Tristian Lee sold a play-action and lobbed it at Brosterhous who was wide open in the end zone.
After that, Marist woke up and it turned into a back-and-forth game that any football fan would expect out of a No. 1 vs No. 2 game.
Through the first half, Mazama stayed methodical and patient. Marist relied heavily on explosive scores from Lucas Tuski.
At halftime, the score was all nodded up at 21. That is when Mazama head coach Vic Lease had a talk with the guys.
"We told the boys this over and over, "Hey, they are going to get theirs. But we are going to get ours too."
That was the message from Lease all week. "Don't get frustrated when things don't go your way."
The halftime message got a little more personal. Lease says he reminded his team that he had lost a State Championship in a Mazama uniform as a senior in high school. He was not ready to see his seniors carry the same regrets.
"You know, lay it all out on the field, you have two quarters left," Lease said when describing his halftime message after the game. "It is an even ball game. We are starting from scratch. You got two quarters. Leave it out there. Play your butts off."
The second half could not have been more opposite from the first. A defensive battle ensued over the final two quarters.
Both teams would attempt 4th and shorts and fail. In fact, only one team scored in the last half.
With seven minutes left in the game, Mazama's Zeke Heaton hit a hole and exploded from about midfield. Once he was through that hole, no one was catching him. That may be because of the singular thought that hit his mind once he saw the light.
"Run as fast as I can," said Heaton. "Just sprint."
Mazama would miss the PAT and take a six-point lead.
After stopping Marist and getting the ball back, Mazama stalled on offense with just over three minutes left in the game.
With 2:24 left in the game, Cole Brosterhous got beat at the line of scrimmage. His man was all alone for what could turn into the momentum booster that Marist needed.
That is where Brosterhous used his "death grip."
After turning on the jets and covering ground as about as fast one can imagine, the senior reached out and snagged the ball out of the air. Brosterhous squeezed the ball tight and fell to the turf.
"It was a death grip," said Brosterhous. "It was a death grip for sure."
Brosterhous stood up knowing that he had just secured the first State Championship in Mazama history. He let his "death grip" release and put some spin on the ball as he dropped it, staring at the Mazama bench the entire time.
"I did that for my brothers," he said. "I love each and every one of them."
Though, the celebration was a bit calmer than one would be in a world without COVID, the Mazama crowd still started letting the tears of joy come out.
Showing emotion is something that Vic Lease does not make a common practice of on the gridiron. That is something that two separate Vikings can confirm.
When NewsWatch 12 Sports asked Cole Brosterhous and Zeke Eaton, separately, what it was like to see Lease cry, they responded in the exact same way.
"I think I have only seen Coach Lease be emotional twice in my life," they both said. "Both of those times were in the last two days."
"Those emotions with these young men tonight, they are a special group. You know… you just love coaching them. You know, you want to get to practice. You want that bell to ring so you can get on the practice field so you can be with those guys. That is what is about and now it's over.
It may be over. However, it is one of those happy endings where a trophy goes back to a hometown.