Kaden Krouse reacts after Chewelah stops Liberty on fourth down in the fourth quarter of the NE 2B Championship Game on Friday. (Brandon Hansen photo)
(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
This has not been a normal football season, obviously. This also isn’t a normal Chewelah Cougar football team, but one that only comes around every half a century or so for a small town. With their 14-3 victory over Liberty on Friday night, Chewelah clinched the NE 2B League Championship and finished the year 5-0, a feat not achieved by another Cougar football team since probably before the state had state playoffs.
And it wasn’t a normal ending to a championship season. As Chewelah’s football players quickly realized after winning the league title, this was the last time a large group of seniors would get to play on Snyder Field and in a Cougar uniform.
“I wouldn’t play with anyone else except for you guys,” Nick Franks told his teammates in a rather emotional huddle in the shadow of the press box after the game.
This senior class was a transformative one for Chewelah athletics. They were the crew that made the adjustment from the 1A to 2B classification. They were the group that had made it to the state 2B quarterfinals two years in a row. They were also the ones that had their senior year of high school reduced to virtual learning and a shortened, abbreviated version of sports seasons. But this spring was a powerful swan song for a team, everybody in town will be going “what if” for many years to come.
The Colfax victory last week, a 34-32 boxing match, was a test in mental strength and took nearly everything the Cougars had to achieve. The Liberty matchup was even tougher, with battering ram Hayden Hardt in the Lancer backfield and a dual quarterback scheme that took many shots down the field.
The defensive secondary put in perhaps their best showing of the year. Kruz Katzer ran back an interception for eighty yards for a touchdown, which proved to be the game-clinching score. Nick Franks ended one deep Liberty drive with a pick before the half and then snagged another in the second half. Clayton Jeanneret effectively ended the game with a pick that ended Liberty’s last second drive.
Meanwhile the Cougar defense as a whole held Liberty to just 148 yards of offense. The “Quartzite Curtain” as its called, held Hardt, who might as well be a D7 dozer, to just 59 yards rushing.
The game began with a full grandstand of Chewelah fans eager to celebrate both the reopening of public sporting events by the state, and a possible league championship. They were rewarded with a defensive first quarter that turned the Cougars way. With 3:15 left in the first stanza, Liberty threw an ill-advised pass down the field that sophomore Kruz Katzer read, picked off and ran down the field for 80 yards and a touchdown to put the Cougs up 6-0.
Katzer’s play was reminiscent of the 100-yard interception return Kaden Krouse had pulled off the week before against Colfax. A play that was voted by Scorebook Live as the best play in Washington.
The game would continue to be a defensive stalemate, as drives stalled out and great plays were made by both Liberty and Chewelah tacklers. With 4:35 left in the first half, Liberty was able to notch a 27-yard field goal to make the game 6-3. Then a few minutes later, the Lancers were again knocking on the door in the redzone.
This is when Chewelah got its second interception, this time by Nick Franks and preserving the Cougars’ 6-3 lead at the break.
VIDEO OF NICK FRANKS INTERCEPTION AGAINST LIBERTY…
The third quarter was more of the same defensive sparring. Chewelah’s Cole Davis presented an issue for the Lancer line. At the defensive end position he provided excellent containment, harassing Liberty’s ballcarriers and when not bringing them down himself, ferrying them to a line of angry linebackers.
In the fourth quarter, Chewelah put together a drive for the ages. Gunboat quarterback Zach Bowman hit Franks for a 10 yard pass, and then for a 35 yard pass. He hit Franks again for another first down and put Chewelah right near the goal line with an eight yard toss to Lukas Kubik.
Not going the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl route, and sitting with an All-League running back in Kaden Krouse and a human fellerbuncher in fullback Cole Davis, the Cougars notched a three-yard touchdown run with 7:39 left in the fourth quarter. The clock began to click even louder for the Lancers, as Bowman finished that up with a scramble for the two-point conversion to put the Cougs up by two scores.
VIDEO OF KADEN KROUSE’S TOUCHDOWN RUN AGAINST LIBERTY…
In the next Liberty drive, Franks picked up a Liberty pass. Chewelah drove down the field and set up a long field goal attempt for George Dinzer that was on target but just a hair short. On the Lancer’s next drive, they threw two complete passes before Clayton Jeanneret picked off their fourth pass of the drive – effectively ending the game for good, save for a two kneel-downs.
The celebration was both exuberant and bittersweet for the Cougars. In five games, Chewelah outscored their opponents 152-42. After two quarterfinal appearances, its hard not to think what this mixture of experienced and downright nasty seniors, along with a stable of underclassman could accomplish if there were a state playoff.
Chewelah could go down as one of the few undefeated football teams this year in the state for football. MaxPreps currently has the Cougars ranked No. 9 in the state but anyone following this team that past two years realize that teams with higher numbers in front of their name rarely do well against Chewelah.
Two of the teams ranked ahead of them were defeated by the Cougars last year. Five have losses on their record, three of them have multiple losses and MaxPreps felt the need to rank Forks No. 3 in the state despite a 2-3 record and probably because everyone somehow thinks the Central 2B League is Washington’s gift to 11-man football and people are afraid of vampires.
Kaden Krouse finished his last game for the Cougars with 72 yards on 15 carries, his most of the year in carriers, and one touchdown. Zach Bowman passed for 120 yards, while Franks caught five passes for 77 yards. Franks, who is from Valley like some of the other kids on the roster, also intercepted two passes and flew around on defense.
Lukas Kubik caught four passes for 41 yards.
Chewelah avenged a 35-13 loss to the Lancers last season on Sept. 13. In the previous three seasons, Chewelah has had a record of 20-4 against 2B opponents.
CHEWELAH 14, LIBERTY 3
Liberty 0 3 0 0 = 3
Chewelah 6 0 0 8 = 14
CHEW – Kruz Katzer 80-yard interception return, kick failed
LIB – 27-yard field goal
CHEW – Kaden Krouse 3-yard run, Zach Bowman run
Chewelah – Kaden Krouse 15-72, Bown Middlesworth 2-9 Liberty – Hayden Hart 16-59
Chewelah – Zach Bowman 11-21/122, Clay Jeanneret 4-8/20; Liberty – Logan Wilson 11-25/83
Chewelah – Nick Franks 7-55, Zach Kubik 4-41, Bowen Middlesworth 1-34; Liberty – N/A