By John L. Braese
ONTARIO – Even with the fanfare of homecoming and facing the La Grande Tigers, the Ontario football team and fans opened the game with a moment of silence.
They were remembering a former teammate, a former volunteer coach, a former Tiger.
Patrick Plaza died on Saturday, Sept. 16. He was 25.
Plaza graduated from Ontario High School in 2010 after playing on both the offensive and defensive line for the Tigers. He later attended Treasure Valley Community College, playing tennis for the Chukars.
Returning to his alma mater, Plaza volunteered as a line coach for the Tigers. He was also well known throughout the community as a coach for youth football teams.
Even with fans’ faces painted and homecoming contestants wearing formal dresses, all bowed their heads while the announcer told of Plaza’s life.
Then, Ontario lost to La Grande 43-38 in a game that doesn’t count in league standing. The teams meet again Oct. 20 for the league game.
Ontario scored first on a 1-yard run by Mike Mejia with less than 5 minutes off the clock. La Grande responded with a 43-yard pass from Andrew Peasley to G.T. Blackman to take a 7-6 lead.
The second quarter abounded with points. Ontario scored with a 4-yard run by Ethan Kameshige and Mejia’s pass to Adam Hawker for a 20-yard score. Mejia also hit Dillon Haueter on a 16-yard passing score.
At the half, Ontario led 26-23.
The second half turned into the Peasley show. The La Grande quarterback, already committed to the Utah State Aggies, spent the second half evading tacklers and causing confusion on the Ontario defense.
Peasley was 16-for-24 passing for 268 yards and three scores. He added 14 carries for 127 yards and two more scores.
For Ontario, Mejia was 24-for-36 for 297 yards, three scores and one interception.
Andy Sanchez had 11 catches for 138 yards. Hawker ended with 7 catches for 96 yards and two scores and Haueter had 4 catches for 39 yards.
Kameshige carried the Ontario ground game, touching the ball 21 times for 114 yards. Mejia had 7 carries for 20 yards.
Ontario ended the game with 12 passing first downs and eight by rushing. Ontario also picked up two first downs off La Grande penalties.
Ontario (2-2 overall) now faces Baker, another league opponent in a non-league game, in Baker