By Geno Ludwig/Staff Correspondent
Sometimes, one punch can cause multiple casualties. With one blow last Friday evening, the Omak Pioneers eliminated a punt return specialist, a middle linebacker, a kickoff return specialist and a runningback. The loss proved catastrophic to the Cougars.
Chewelah held a 24-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but was trampled over the next three time periods in suffering a 35-26 loss.
“We beat them for one quarter, and they beat us through three quarters,” said Coach Levi Hogan. “It was very frustrating. The turning point in the game early, and we didn’t recover.”
The turning point came immediately following Jensen Holloway’s touchdown toward the end of the opening quarter.
In the film of the game, as Holloway crosses the goal line, an Omak player pushes him in the back with both hands, and two officials’ flags fly. Unfortunately, the officials are not close enough to stop the pushing until Holloway gets hit in the back four more times.
By this time the officials get there, the players have separated the two and a conference of striped shirts convened.
Their decision was to eject both players, saying that although they did not see Holloway throw a punch, he had clinched his fist as if he was going to throw one.
“After the game, the officials apologized because they did not get to the end zone faster to break up the confrontation,” said Chewelah athletic director Rocky Verbeck.
Holloway had just scored on a 35-yard pass, beating the officials across the goal line by 15 yards. The loss of Holloway was tragic for Chewelah. It was the game changer. His touchdown, along with the extra point pass, gave the Cougars a 24-0 lead.
After the incident, however, Omak scored 35 points. Chewelah scored two.
Dakota Kroiss scored the first Cougar touchdown. All alone in the Omak secondary, he caught a third down pass from Owen Baldwin and outran the Pioneers to the end zone. The play covered 53 yards. Dom Coleman’s extra-point run gave Chewelah an early 8-0 lead.
The second Cougar touchdown came as a result of a blocked Pioneer punt.
Three Chewelah players converged on the kicker, and at least one of them—possibly Conner Krouse—got a hand on the ball. The punt traveled 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, where Elan Krausz caught it before stepping out of bounds.
So, the Cougars commenced their second scoring drive from the Omak 25- yard line. Kaden Mackowiak picked up most of those yards, somehow appearing out of a group of Omak tacklers at the line of scrimmage and running to the far sideline. There, he picked up blocks from Brenden Flanagan and Nils Berger that gave him running room to the Pioneer nine-yard line.
The 16-yard gain by Mackowiak put Chewelah in the red zone. His inside run up the middle on the next play crossed the goal line for the touchdown. The extra-point run by Ryder Robison followed the block of Nolan Hansen for two more points. The Cougar lead was now 16-0.
Holloway’s touchdown came on a fourth down pass from Baldwin which he grabbed along the Chewelah sideline. He juked one would-be Omak tackler, picked up a block from Christian Caldwell, and sprinted 35 yards to the end zone. The extra-point catch by Flanagan running a slant route gave the Cougars a 24-0 lead, still in the first quarter.
Chewelah did not vaporize all of a sudden. Instead, the Cougars slowly unraveled as time blinked off the scoreclock.
Chewelah was again on the Omak side of the midfield stripe in the second quarter after runs by Coleman, Baldwin, and Mackowiak. However, the Cougars fumbled away the football at the Pioneer 25-yard line. Still, they stuffed a Pioneer reverse and sacked the Omak quarterback to force a punt.
“If we would have scored on this drive, we probably would have kept the momentum on our side and won the game,” said Hogan.
As it was, however, the Cougars suddenly were unable to move the ball with any consistency. There were some good gains, but every possession ended in a fumble, an interception, or a turnover on downs. And, nearly every Omak possession ended up in the end zone. The pendulum was swinging the wrong direction, and Chewelah could not stop it or the Pioneers.
Mackowiak had runs up the middle for 15 yards and 10 yards. Nolan Hansen had a seven-yard sack. Baldwin gained 13 yards on an option keeper.
John Larson caught a 16-yard pass to the Omak 12-yard line, but the Cougars did not get across the goal line on that series. Late in the game, Baldwin threw three consecutive completions to Larson for 30 yards, to Coleman for 11 yards, and again to Larson for 15 yards, but that possession also halted short of the end zone. All were good gainers, but none reached pay dirt in the second half.
Their inability to keep the ball moving cost the Cougars the ball game, 35-26, as Omak came back from a 24-point deficit to celebrate a crossover victory.