UPDATE: Cougars ended their season Nov. 10 with a loss to River View High School, 14-27.
Halloween showed up two days late for the Chewelah Cougars last Friday night when they survived an unexpected scare from the visiting Okanogan Bulldogs on a soggy and foggy Snyder Field turf.
Chewelah scored three times in the opening quarter, but the pesky Bulldogs came back to haunt the Cougars through the remainder of the game. In the end, Chewelah held on for a 26-20 play-in victory. It was their ninth straight win of the season after losing a non-league opener to Deer Park back in August.
The Cougars now enter the 16-team state tournament bracket, where they will host River View this Saturday afternoon at 1:00 at Snyder Field. As in all state-sponsored games, season passes and ASB cards cannot be used for admittance. The cost will be $8.00 for adults and $6.00 for students.
“This was a good win for us,” said Coach Jim Fisk, “and it was a big step forward for this group of kids. It was a tough game, just like I suspected it would be. They played hard and got the win, and that was our goal.
“They have never been here before. This the first time they have made it into the state championship bracket.
Derek Smith ran for 137 yards and passed for an additional 106 yards to orchestrate the Cougar win. In the first quarter, he threw touchdown passes to Cordell Bean and to Mason Miller. He also ran the ball across the goal line from one-yard out for a 20-7 Chewelah lead.
The next three quarters were unusually inconsistent for the Cougars. Overall, they strained to maintain the flow of their typically well-oiled rhythm. Passes were overthrown, underthrown, dropped, and intercepted. Still the Chewelah running attack gained 234 yards. The Cougar passing attack produced 117 yards. That was the spooky part.
“This is about what we have averaged in both passing and rushing all year,” said Fisk. “Yes, we made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but we did another good job of overcoming adversity with the loss of Trey (Barnett) early in the game. But, this is November, and nothing comes easy in November. As I told the kids, this is playoff football. We either change our pace and get after it, or we pack it in.”
As usual, the Cougar defense dug in during the fourth quarter and preserved a six-point lead for the win. That was especially true during the final six minutes of the ballgame when Okanogan crossed the midfield stripe and was advancing toward the Chewelah goal line. At that moment, it became a do or die situation for the Cougar defense. Okanogan could have won the game with a touchdown and an extra point, but the Cougars made a stand just inside their 40-yard line and halted the Bulldogs there on downs to finally put the game on ice.
Bean’s second touchdown of the night on a five-yard run was Chewelah’s lone trip to the endzone in the last three quarters. But, it was the game-winning touchdown that kept the Cougars ahead on the scoreboard to notch the win.
McKenzie Miller’s 33-yard return of the opening kickoff gave Chewelah good field position to open the game at the Cougar 43- yard line. Bean rambled 29 yards on his first carry of the night to give Chewelah a first down on the Okanogan 28-yrd line. From there, Smith completed three passes to Caleb Wiebe, Ben Johnstone, and Bean to complete the scoring drive. Bean’s catch in the endzone, followed by Ty Curtis’s extra-point kick gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 9:35 to play in the first quarter.
Okanogan came right back to score on a 45-yard pass that was juggled three or four times before the receiver took possession of the pigskin and pranced into the endzone. His touchdown tied the score at seven-apiece with 8:38 left to play in the first quarter.
Chewelah scored on its next two possessions. The Cougars marched 80 yards for their second touchdown. A 40-yard run down the Okanogan sideline by Smith and a 24-yard pass reception by Johnstone highlighted the drive. Smith scored on a quarterback sneak to regain the lead for Chewelah 14-7.
During that same scoring drive, the Cougars also had a touchdown called back on a penalty. It was a fullback pass from Bean to Smith that traversed 45 yards. However, the scoring drive was kept alive and Smith scored eight plays later.
Dustin Crowell’s pass interception at the Bulldog 29- yard line gave the Cougars their opportunity for a third touchdown in the opening quarter. After a couple of runs failed to move the ball, Smith threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Mason Miller. His touchdown gave Chewelah a 20-7 lead with 1:04 remaining in the quarter.
Chewelah did not score again until the third quarter. The Cougars held a 20-13 lead at halftime, but their four possessions of the second quarter either ended in pass interceptions or turnovers on downs.
But, a determined Cougar team effort put together a scoring drive on their first possession of the second half after forcing Okanogan to punt away the ball. It ended up being the winning drive of the game.
Starting at their own 46-yard line, the Cougars momentarily found their groove with a good mix of runs and passes. A nine-yard run by Bean, and 12-yard pass to Bean, a 12-yared tackle-breaking run by Crowell, and a 12-yard quarterback counter by Smith gave Chewelah a first down on the Bulldog 28-yard line. Four plays later, Bean ran to the left and into the end zone for the touchdown.
Chewelah now had a 26-13 with 7:36 left to play in the third quarter. That seemed to be an ample cushion until Okanogan scored in the last minute of the quarter to cut the Cougar lead to 26-20.
With a full quarter of play remaining, the Bulldogs were still in the ballgame, and the Cougar defense had to again do its job to keep them out of the end zone through the final 12 minutes. If the offense could not score, then the defense had to hold.
That the Cougars did hold. Okanogan had the ball three times in the final quarter. They forced the Bulldogs to punt to end their first two possessions. Then, they forced the Bulldogs to give up the ball on downs at the Cougar 39-yard line when Stephen Zerr deflected a fourth down pass headed toward the endzone.
From there, the Cougars took over possession of the pigskin and ran the final 2:11 off the clock with Bean carrying the ball three times for 25 yards. His second carry earned the crucial first down that Chewelah needed to keep the clock running down to zeros.
Smith led Chewelah with 17 carries for 137 yards and one touchdown. He also completed 13 of 29 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns
Bean had 13 carries for 65 yards, Crowell had three carries for 13 yards, Wiebe had one carry for 13 yards, and Johnstone had one carry for 3 yards.
Bean had five pass receptions for 39 yards. Johnstone had five catches for 43 yards. Crowell, Wiebe, and Mason Miller each had one catch.
Dustin Crowell led the Chewelah defense with 10 tackles. McKenzie Miller had eight. Johnstone and Owens each had seven. Dustin Olson had five tackles, a fumble recovery, a quarterback sack, and a tipped pass that was intercepted by Crowell.
With the loss of Trey Barnett to a fractured upper leg in last weekend’s ballgame, the Cougar coaches will have to find replacements at tight end and defensive end. Barnett had surgery over the weekend in Spokane to stabilize the break, and he came home early this week.
Chewelah was the only Northeast A League team to win a crossover play-in game last Friday night. Medical Lake, Lakeside, and Freeman all lost their bids for a state tournament entry. Caribou Trail League teams also won two of the three other non-entry crossover games. Riverside’s win over Tonasket was the lone NEA victory.
When Chewelah meets River View on Saturday, they will see a mirror image of themselves. The Panthers run the same shotgun offense that Chewelah runs. They also use the same four-three defense.
Kickoff time on Saturday afternoon is 1:00.
Chewelah 26, Okanogan 20
(winner to state)
Cashmere 66, Lakeside 9
(winner to state)
Quincy 16, Freeman 7
(winner to state)
Cascade 44, Medical Lake 14
(winner to state)
Omak 32, Kettle Falls 15
Riverside 29, Tonasket 28
Chelan 42, Newport 13
State 1A Eastside Pairings
River View at Chewelah
Cle Elum at Cashmere
Leavenworth at Royal
Quincy at Zillah
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Teamwork gets it done on Friday night. Defense worked together. Here Johnstone #44, Dustin
Crowell, Blake Owens and Jordan Lambert put down the Okanagan ball carrier! Kim Johnstone photo