It was a game of long gains for the Chewelah Cougars at Newport last Friday night when they defeated the Grizzlies to clinch the 2012 Northeast A League football championship.
McKenzie Miller returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Derek Smith galloped 50 yards for a touchdown and later had a 40- yard run to set up Ben Johnstone’s two-yard touchdown run.
Caleb Wiebe returned a pass interception 76 yards early in the second half to set up a Cordell Bean touchdown.
Bean then ran 60 yards toward the end of the game for his second touchdown of the night.
The result was a 40-14 victory for the Cougars over the host Grizzlies that kept Chewelah as the only undefeated team in Northeast A League play. The Cougars are 5-0 in league play. They have now won seven straight games after losing their season opener to Deer Park.
Chewelah’s win leaves the Cougars with one last league encounter of the season. They will face the Riverside Rams at Snyder Field this Friday night for the final conference game of the season for both ballclubs.
A win will give Chewelah an unbeaten league season and a number one seed into the upcoming crossover game against the Caribou Trail League on November 2.
Returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown is psychologically deflating to an opponent.
Only 19 seconds had blinked off the scoreclock when McKenzie Miller crossed the goal line to give Chewelah a quick 6-0 lead. Miller caught the opening kickoff at the Chewelah five-yard line. He ran down the middle of the field and then angled toward the Cougar sideline. From there, he outsprinted the Grizzlies to the goal line for the touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, but the Cougars had a quick 6-0 lead.
Chewelah scored again on its next possession. Starting at the 31- yard line, the Cougars moved the ball to midfield on runs by Cordell Bean and Miller, along with a 12- yard pass from Smith to Miller. Then, Smith ran a quarterback counter to the left, led by the blocking of Bean, Tommy Norman, and Trey Barnett. Smith darted through the defensive front and sprinted 50 yards to the endzone for Chewelah’s second touchdown. The extra-point run failed, but the Cougars had a 12-0 lead with 6:57 still remaining in the first quarter.
A 33-yard pass from Smith to Bean set up the third Chewelah touchdown of the quarter. It gave the Cougars a first down on the Newport 19-yard line. Four plays later, Bean scored from nine yards out. He also ran the extra-point attempt across the goal line for a 20-0 Chewelah lead with 2:23 left to play in the first quarter.
With the early 20-point lead, the Cougars backed off on the offense and settled in to play some defense through the second quarter. During this time, Norman sacked the Newport quarterback for a five-yard loss to end one Grizzly possession. Ben Johnstone halted the second Newport possession of the quarter by stuffing a reverse and then intercepting a pass. The third Newport possession was ended by Josh Hanley’s fumble recovery.
So, the Cougar defense did its job and Chewelah took a 20-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Caleb Wiebe’s 76-yard pass interception return set the stage for the fourth Chewelah touchdown of the game. Two plays later, Johnstone made the lead block that cleared the road for Bean to cross the goal line on a five-yard run. With 7:27 remaining in the third quarter, the Cougars had increased their lead to 26-0.
Chewelah scored one more time in the third quarter on a four-play that began at the Cougar 30-yard line. Smith triggered the drive with an 18-yard run on a quarterback sweep. Bean then gained 10 yards on a trap play in the opposite direction. Next, Smith broke loose for a 40-yard run on a counter play. Finally, Johnstone took the ball into the endzone from two yards out for the touchdown. The extra-point kick by Ty Curtis gave Chewelah a 33-0 lead.
The Cougar defense kept Newport scoreless through the third quarter. During this 12-minute stretch, Dustin Olson racked up two quarterback sacks and three tackles for a loss of yardage. Blake Owens also had two tackles in the Grizzly backfield.
Bean scored Chewelah’s final touchdown of the game with 8:08 left to play in the fourth quarter. Following a Newport onside kick, Bean found an opening in the Grizzly defensive front and rambled 60 yards to the goal line.
After being held scoreless through the first three quarters, Newport scored twice in the fourth quarter, so Chewelah was not able to notch a shutout victory. The final score was Chewelah 40, Newport 14.
The win earned the Cougars the top seed for the Northeast A League into the upcoming crossover games with the Caribou Trail League. The Cougars will host Okanogan on Friday, November 2.
But, before that happens, Chewelah will be playing for an undefeated league season this Friday night when the Riverside Rams come to Snyder Field. A victory would give the Cougars a perfect 6-0 league record going into the post-season.
Smith topped Chewelah ballcarriers with 111 yards, including one of 50 yards and another of 40 yards.
Bean was the work horse of the Chewelah ground attack with 13 carries for 94 yards.
The Cougars threw the ball only 11 times, completing six passes for 84 yards. Miller had two catches totaling 42 yards. Bean had three catches for 35 yards. Wiebe caught one ball for seven yards.
Altogether, Chewelah finished the game with 342 total yards of offense. That is without counting Miller’s 95-yard kickoff return and Wiebe’s 76-yard interception return.
The Cougar defense allowed Newport 218 total yards, 165 rushing and 53 passing.
Johnstone and Olson combined to make 29 tackles. Johnstone had a season-high 15. Olson had 14 tackles, plus three quarterback sacks. He leads the Cougars this season with nine sacks. Hanley and Norman also each had a sack.
Smith had eight tackles, and Owens had seven.
Riverside comes to Chewelah this Friday night with just one league win. The Rams defeated Kettle Falls earlier in the season, 27-9. So far, that has been the only win for the Rams this season. Overall, they are 1-7 for the season. Kickoff time at Snyder Field is 7:00 on Friday night.
Northeast A League
Chewelah 5 – 0
Medical Lake 4 – 1
Freeman 4 – 1
Lakeside 3 – 3
Riverside 1 – 4
Newport 1 – 4
Kettle Falls 0 – 5
Last Week’s Games
Chewelah 40, Newport 14
Lakeside 54, Riverside 6
Freeman 33, Kettle Falls 6
Medical Lake did not play
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: McKenzie Miller #4 sets the tone for the Newport game last Friday when he catches the opening kick-off and makes a 95 yard return run evading the entire Newport team to score the first touchdown. Kim Johnstone photo