(GENO LUDWIG/Chewelah Independent)
BOOMING BACK TO THE QUARTERFINALS: Chewelah muscles Tonasket 36-7 to advance to the State 2B Quarterfinals for the second year in a row…
Kaden Krouse gained 196 yards and scored twice while a downright brutal Chewelah defense barricaded all entrances to the endzone last Friday night when the Cougars defeated the visiting Tonasket Tigers 36-7 in the opening round of the 2019 2B Gridiron Classic Football Tournament.
The fourth-ranked Cougars will now face the fifth-ranked Adna Pirates this Saturday, November 23 at 1 p.m. at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane in the state quarterfinals.
“This is going to be a dogfight,” predicted Coach Cameron Gump. “Adna is a lot like us. They run a lot of the same plays that we do. They run and throw the ball with equal ability. So, we have to be physical like we were against Tonasket, and we have to play with the same intensity. There is no doubt that both teams are going to put points on the scoreboard. The winner will be the one that wants it more.”
When Tonasket came to Snyder Field apparently well-prepared to defend against Chewelah’s potent passing attack, Coach Jim Fisk merely turned over his play sheet and said, “Okay, then we’ll just run the ball.” And that is exactly what the Cougars did, gaining a season-high 314 yards on the ground and averaging over seven yards per carry in delivering the ball to the endzone four times. Unable to find open receivers, Jake Jeanneret ran for a total of 81 yards and scored on a 19-yarder. Still, Cougar receivers kept busy providing downfield blocking for ballcarriers.
Chewelah linemen Sam Triplett, Nic Shierloh, Cole Davis, Gunnar Hofstetter and Andrew Sweat opened the barn doors for Cougar ballcarriers, and Shierloh booted a 66-yard punt and another measured at 34 yards, with both pinning the Tigers against their goal post.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ball, Coach Gump’s noxious Cougar defense intercepted three Tonasket passes and tipped away three other throws, tackled a ballcarrier in the endzone for a safety, forced four turnovers on downs, and limited the visiting Tigers to 186 total yards of offense.
“It is not often that one team’s defense holds the other scoreless in the state tournament bracket like we did last Friday night,” said Gump. “We have played some tough teams this season, and they have made us the tough defensive team that we are right now. We are hitting really hard and we will have to continue to be that hard-hitting team this week when we face Adna.”
Jake George, Bowen Middlesworth and Sweat snagged the interceptions, with George returning the ball 65 yards down the visitor’s sideline to the endzone and Middlesworth’s 31-yard return setting up the fourth Chewelah touchdown of the night. George batted away two Tonasket passes and Kruz Katzer swatted down another.
Altogether, it was an outstanding night for Cougar football.
Chewelah got on the scoreboard first as a result of Shierloh’s first punt that rolled dead at the Tonasket four-yard line. A third down pass was tipped by George, and an oncoming Cougar rush caused the Tiger to shank the ball out of bounds at the 19-yard line. Two plays later, Jeanneret ran a quarterback keeper through the middle of the Tonasket defense for a touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, but Chewelah had a 6-0 lead with 7:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Tonasket’s second possession was ended by Sweat, who picked off a Tiger pass. The Tonasket quarterback was tackled by George as he got rid of the ball, and the floater was gobbled-up by Sweat on the Tiger 37-yard line.
This Chewelah possession was marred by a couple of penalties that resulted in Shierloh’s second punt of the quarter. This one was downed by Nick Franks at the Tonasket one-yard line. From there, Hofstetter and Triplett sandwiched the Tigers in their endzone for a safety, widening the Cougar lead to 8-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
Krouse scored his first of two touchdowns in the second quarter. When Tonasket’s next drive stalled on tackles from Davis, Middlesworth, Sweat, and Krouse, Chewelah resumed its ground attack. Krouse carried for an 11-yard gain behind the lead blocking of George and then sprinted 50 yards to the endzone behind a kick-out block by Hofstetter at the corner and downfield blocks from Franks and Middlesworth. A bootleg pass from Jeanneret to Baldwin provided the two extra points and increased the Cougar lead to 16-0 with 9:39 remaining in the second quarter.
Tackles by Davis and Sweat, a pass knocked out of the hands of a Tonasket receiver by George and a tackle for only a short gain from Middlesworth again put the Tigers in a punting situation that returned the ball to Chewelah to score one more time before the end of the first half. The 68-yard scoring drive featured Krouse and Jeanneret taking turns carrying the ball. Jeanneret scrambled for a 26-yard run and a seven-yard bootleg keeper. Krouse had seven carries totaling 52 yards, with his final tote of the drive getting him across the goal line from one yard out. Triplett’s extra-point kick gave the Cougars a 23-0 lead with 3:10 remaining in the first half.
The Chewelah defense was determined to keep Tonasket from scoring. The final Tiger possession of the first half was halted for a turnover on downs as Middlesworth, George, Shierloh, Davis, Hofstetter and Sweat rallied to the ball. Katzer swatted down a Tiger pass and Sweat made a tackle for a one-yard loss on fourth down to give the ball back to Chewelah on downs. However, a 55-yard pass interception return for a touchdown by Tonasket at the close of the first half put the Tigers on the scoreboard at 23-7.
Chewelah’s defense was relentlessly unyielding again in the second half. Team tackles including George, Shierloh, Davis, Hofstetter, Krouse, Triplett, Sweat and Katzer forced Tonasket to turn the ball over on downs and to punt the ball away. George had his pick six late in the quarter, intercepting the pass and running 65 yards down the visitor’s sideline for the touchdown. Triplett’s kick gave the Cougars a 30-7 lead with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than a minute after that, Middlesworth caught a Tonasket pass and returned it 31 yards to the Tiger 15-yard line. Three plays later, he took the ball around the right corner and scored on an 11-yard run, spreading the Cougar lead to 36-7 to begin the final quarter of play.
Tonasket had the ball twice in the final quarter and turned it over on downs both times. Cole Piepgras stuffed a Tiger receiver behind the line of scrimmage to end one possession. Triplett and Shierloh ended the last possession with a quarterback sack. Chewelah got the ball back with 3:49 remaining in the game and earned three first downs to run out the time on the scoreclock on an 11-yard run by Jeanneret, a 15-yard run by Middlesworth and a two-yard run from Zach Bowman.
One of the axioms of football is that you take what the defense gives you. Although the Cougars like to air out the football, they quickly switched to a ground attack when Tonasket denied them the air routes. Chewelah finished the game with 314 rushing yards. Krouse had 20 carries for 196 yards, Jeanneret had 13 carries for 81 yards and George had six carries for 14 yards. Jeanneret completed three of 10 passes for 23 yards.
Sweat led the Chewelah defense with 12 tackles. Krouse, Hofstetter and Davis had eight apiece; Shierloh and George each had seven; Triplett had six; and Katzer had five.
The Cougars will drive in to Spokane on Friday to practice on Gonzaga Prep’s field. Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m.