Whew!!! The sigh of relief along the Chewelah sideline could almost be heard over the sound of the scoreboard horn ending the ballgame last Friday night as the Cougars held on to hand the Medical Lake Cardinals their first loss of the season, 33-28.
It was as if the Cougars and their fans had each been holding their breath for the six and a half minutes since the last Cardinal touchdown had been scored. That final exhale ended the anxiety on the visitors’ side of the field that had been building through the time the Cougars successfully battled to protect their five-point lead.
Chewelah had taken a 33-20 lead into the fourth quarter, hoping the two-touchdown lead would be enough to take home a league victory. However, when Medical Lake scored with 6:29 remaining in the game and added a two-point conversion, the Cougar 13-point lead was whittled down to only a five-point spread.
In other words, one more touchdown by the host Cardinals could totally erase Chewelah’s lead. Through the rest of the game, the Cougar defense had to keep Medical Lake out of the endzone and the Cougar offense had to keep control of the ball as long as possible. And they did.
Both teams had two possessions in that final six and a half minutes. Chewelah received the kickoff following the Medical Lake touchdown and ran nearly four minutes off the clock before Cordell Bean punted the ball into the endzone with 2:40 left to play.
With time quickly blinking off the scoreclock, Medical Lake had 80 yards to go and less than three minutes to get there. On their first play, the Cardinals went to the air and threw a long pass toward their sideline. But, the player who came down with the ball was Chewelah cornerback Ty Curtis. The defense had done its job.
The Cougars had the ball at midfield with 2:31 left to play. When three downs did not produce ten yards, Bean punted again. Medical Lake let the ball roll all the way down to the 13-yard line, where it came to a stop with only three seconds remaining in the game. After being flagged for back to back penalties, the Cardinals took possession of the ball at their own three-yard line with 0:03 shining from the scoreclock.
Medical Lake had time enough for only one play. It was a hook and ladder pass to the sideline. The pass was caught, but the pitch was bobbled out of bounds as the horn sounded to end the game. Chewelah had held on to notch the league win, 33-28, handing the Cardinals their first loss of the season.
The victory vaulted Chewelah to the top of the current conference standings, tied there with Freeman, both with a 3-0 league record. The two teams will meet to break that tie this Friday at Snyder Field when the Cougars host the Scotties at the annual homecoming game.
Medical Lake started last Friday’s game with a 68-yard scoring drive that relentlessly attacked the Cougar defensive front. The Cardinals scored with 7:41 remaining in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
Conversely, Chewelah’s first scoring drive of the nearly same length took only 19 seconds. Bean returned the Medical lake kickoff to the Cougar 32-yard line. Then, on the first play, Derek Smith ran a quarterback sweep down the Chewelah sideline for a 70-yard touchdown. The extra-point kick by Curtis tied the game at 7-7.
A Chewelah fumble led to Medical Lake’s second touchdown. The Cardinals took a 14-7 lead with 3:08 left to play in the opening quarter.
When Medical Lake’s onside kick was recovered by Trey Barnett, Chewelah had the ball with good field position at its own 40-yard line. Passes from Smith to McKenzie Miller and Dustin Crowell moved the ball down to the Cardinal 36-yard line.
From there, Crowell ran a sweep all the way to the endzone for a Cougar touchdown. The extra-point run by Smith put Chewelah on top for the first time in the game, 15-14, with 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Cougars would retain the lead from this time to the end of the game.
Chewelah scored twice in the second quarter to widen its lead to 27-14 at halftime. Smith’s pass interception at midfield set up the first Cougar touchdown of the quarter. He caught the ball and raced all the way to the endzone for what appeared to be a Cougar touchdown. But, the 40-yard return was called back by a penalty.
So, the Cougars had to do it the hard way. Five plays later, after an 11-yard run by Caleb Wiebe, Smith threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to McKenzie Miller for a 21-14 Chewelah lead with 7:55 remaining until halftime.
By this time, the Cougars had figured out the new wrinkles that had been added to the Medical Lake playbook during the week. Led by Dustin Olson, who finished the game with a team-high 12 tackles, they put a plug in the Cardinal inside attack. Also, they found ways to bypass the new Cardinal six-one defense they added just for this game in an attempt to stop the running of Smith and Bean.
A pass interception by Wiebe ended another Medical Lake possession. He returned the ball all the way to the Cardinal two-yard line, but, just like Smith’s return a few minutes prior, it was returned to midfield by a penalty.
Still, the Cougars were not to be denied. A nine-yard run and a 12-yard catch by Bean quickly moved the ball toward the goal line. From the 21-yard line, Smith finished the drive with a 21-yard scoring pass to Crowell. The touchdown widened the Chewelah lead to 27-14 at halftime.
Both teams scored in the third quarter. Medical Lake intercepted a Cougar pass and scored seven plays later to narrow the Chewelah lead to 27-20. The Cougars then scored on their next possession on an 11-yard run by Wiebe. So, going into the final quarter of play, they held a 33-20 lead over the Cardinals.
Chewelah ran 10 plays to begin the final quarter and got to the Medical Lake six-yard line, but the Cougars did not score. Smith’s pass to Tommy Norman that flew 37 yards advanced the ball to the Cardinal 15-yard line. Smith also threw two completions to Mason Miller to keep the drive alive. Runs by Bean and Smith nudged it up to the six-yard line, but there the drive stalled and the Cougars turned over the ball on downs.
Medical Lake then put together its last scoring drive and scored with 6:29 remaining in the game. The Cougar lead was cut to a five-point spread, 33-28, and the pressure was building on both sides of the turf. The Cardinals did not want their five-game winning streak to come to an end, especially on their home field. Likewise, the Cougars were determined to post their third straight league win.
In the end, Chewelah triumphed, sending the Cougars into this Friday’s game against Freeman that could end up being this season’s league championship game.
Smith spearheaded the Chewelah offense with 19 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 11 of 19 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. In doing so, he completed passes to six different receivers. They were Crowell, Bean, Wiebe, Norman, and the Miller twins.
Wiebe and Crowell each had a rushing touchdown. Crowell and McKenzie Miller each caught a touchdown pass.
Olson’s dozen tackles topped the Cougar defense. Crowell had five tackles. Blake Owens and Norman both had four tackles. Smith, Wiebe, and Curtis each had a pass interception.
This Friday night is the annual Homecoming Game as the Cougars host the Freeman Scotties. Kickoff time is 7:00.
Northeast A League
Chewelah 3 – 0
Freeman 3 – 0
Medical Lake 3 – 1
Lakeside 1 – 3
Riverside 1 – 3
Newport 1 – 2
Kettle Falls 0 – 3
Last week’s games
Chewelah 33, Medical Lake 28
Newport 31, Riverside 21
Freeman 41, Lakeside 0
Kettle Falls did not play
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Senior Adam Collins #56 far right, Dustin Olson #76 middle work to open up space for Derek Smith #2 to move the ball down the field in the last 4 minutes of the game and hold on to the 33 to 28 Cougar lead! Kim Johnstone photo