Day After Report: These games did not disappoint

Kiggins Bowl was the place to be Friday night.

Oh sure, we figured the biggest game of the week for the region was going to be the Union-Skyview game at 8 p.m. at Kiggins Bowl. But we had no idea that one of the most exciting games of the season would take place at the 5 p.m. game at Kiggins Bowl.

Did anyone see the Woodland-Fort Vancouver game coming? That was a classic. Well, maybe too many turnovers for some fans. But for me? I’d rather have a close, back-and-forth game with a lot of turnovers, than a five-touchdown blowout with no turnovers.

So at Kiggins Bowl, we had one game that featured 75 points, four ties, and two fourth-quarter lead changes. Then we had another game that featured 38 points and a team rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit for the win.

One game had huge ramifications for the playoff picture, with a home playoff game in the balance. The other game meant absolutely nothing. Not even a league victory. Just football.

And that’s why Friday was so special.

Because the players in the Union-Skyiew game, the game that mattered, played like it mattered. And just as awesome, the players in the other game, with nothing on the line, played like it mattered.

Because, really, all the games matter … to someone.

Fort Vancouver was 1-7 going into the contest, on a six-game losing streak. Woodland was 7-1 going into the contest, coming off its only loss of the season. The Trappers didn’t want to lose again. The Beavers didn’t want to two losses in a row before the playoffs.

So the two teams battled as if it were a playoff game.

Yes, I’m sure that some Woodland fans would say the team did not give its “A” game in terms of preparation. After all, it was non-league and a game against a 1-7 opponent. That might be true. But once faced with the realization that Fort Vancouver was not going to roll over, the Beavers turned it on. And what made this game even more exhilarating, the Trappers kept coming back, too.

Now for some behind-the-scenes look at how we do things at The Columbian. For our coverage plan, we figure out how many reporters, freelancers, and stringers we have on a particular week. We figure out our “main event” game of the week. And when we have really big games, such as the Union-Skyview game, we try to have one reporter do that game only, even if it is at a stadium with two games.

Originally, the plan was for me to only cover the Union-Skyview game. But there was a shortage of reporters, so it was decided I could cover both games. That’s not a problem. We do that all the time. However, when the 8 p.m. game is the clear choice for “game of the week” it can get a little hectic covering the 5 p.m. game and trying to file that story before the 8 p.m. game starts. Understand?

Well, the thinking going into this doubleheader at Kiggins was that the first game would probably be over early. Sorry, Trappers, but this was 7-1 vs. 1-7 and a Woodland team with an incredible offense and good defense. I’ll admit we thought this could have been a running clock. We thought the game could be over by 7 or 7:15, plenty of time to write one game and prepare for the next.

That’s why we love sports, though, right? We just never know.

I know Woodland won the game, but Fort Vancouver proved something, too. True athletes will compete no matter the record, no matter what’s on the line. Thanks Trappers for reminding all of us of that.

Late Friday night or Saturday morning, I sent out a tweet thanking Woodland, Fort, Union and Skyview for giving me two great games to watch.

I love this job!

From scary, to scary good in a half for the Titans.

Spooky: Playing off the Halloween theme, I tweeted at halftime that Union’s statistics were scary. As in bad.

A few Union fans were not pleased with me. I was just the messenger, but whatever. Trust me, I was not the only one who was shocked by the numbers. The Union coaches were about 10 feet away from me in the press box. The halftime numbers were “scary” to them, too.

If you recall, Union had 38 yards of offense in the first half. Not 138, but 38. As in thirty-eight.

Of course, a few tweets later, I noted that the good news for Union was despite only having 38 yards of offense, the Titans were only down 10 points.

Sure enough, Union turned things around in the second half, and the 10-point deficit was not too big of a deficit for the Titans.

First half agony: Sure, the Titans won this game in the second half. Skyview, though, has to feel it could have done more in the first half.

As noted in my game story, Union was fortunate to benefit from two 50-50 calls by the officials regarding fumbles. The two times the officials huddled to determine whether there was a fumble or not, the calls went in Union’s favor. (Not saying these were good or bad calls. Just saying they could have gone either way.) The Storm, of course, believe they should have been awarded the ball on at least one of those plays.

Taking away that controversy, though, one could argue that Skyview just did not do enough in the first half — a half it dominated — to win the game. The Storm led 17-7. It easily could have been 20-0 or 24-0.

Skyview went 81 yards on 11 plays on the opening drive of the game. The Storm appeared on their way for a touchdown on their second drive of the game, too, reaching the Union 20-yard line. That’s when Union’s Kyle Vermeulen intercepted a Skyview pass and returned it 82 yards to the Skyview 2-yard line. One play later, the game was tied at 7-all.

At that point, Skyview had 125 yards of offense. Union had 5. And the game was tied. The Storm would get 60 more yards on its next drive, resulting in field goal. So that made it 185-5 advantage in yards and a 10-7 lead on the scoreboard.

So going back to that second drive of the game, let’s just say Skyview does not turn it over there. Skyview’s kicker, Braden Hadfield, is so good that the Storm at least would have tried a field goal if its drive had stalled in the red zone. So that turn of events was possible a 14-point swing, a 10-point swing, or Union starts deep in its own territory, still trying to figure out the Skyview defense. Instead, it was a 2-yard TD drive for Union and a tie game.

Vermeulen’s interception did more than create that big swing. It gave a desperate spark to his team.

“We just had no emotion in the beginning of the game,” Vermeulen acknowledged. “It felt like we weren’t even a team. After we got that big play, our emotions went up.”

The Union offense remained stuck in a rut, but the Titans survived until they could regroup.

“Once we got into halftime, it changed,” Vermeulen said.

Jack Bauer does it again! I admit it, I just don’t get tired of the Jack Bauer “saves the day” tweets. Plus, he keeps saving the day, so it’s not a lie.

Union’s Jack Bauer rushed for 123 of his 137 yards in the second half and scored both Union touchdowns in the second half. On what turned into the game-winning drive, he had nine carries for 64 yards. He had a 20-yard carry to the 1-yard line, then scored on the next play.

He admitted he was tired.

“It was such a good feeling once I got in (the end zone),” he said. “Now I can get a breather.”

Skyview defensive gems: The game story talks a lot about Union’s second-half performance and some of Skyview’s standouts on offense. The Skyview defenders had some big plays, too. After all, the Titans were held to 19 points below their season average.

Nate Rider had a pass defended on a third-down play. Olive Emmy made a fine open-field tackle to hold the Titans to a minimal gain. Nick Skaar stuffed Union on a fake punt. Jimmy Rowe got a sack, but only after teammate Brennan Messman blew up the play. Later, Skyler Martin got a sack only after teammate Parker Baker blew up the play.

What is wrong with the field at Kiggins Bowl? Probably nothing, but apparently the officials believe the paint for the yardage markers must be off. Union started one possession on the 20-yard line after a touchback.

A couple plays later, officials placed the ball on the 30-yard line. The tip of the ball was touching the 30-yard line. I even asked a guy with a zoom on his camera to see if the ball was touching the 30-yard line. It was. Yet, the officials ruled it was second down. How is this possible? If the ball starts at exactly the 20-yard line, as it is supposed to after a touchback, then if the ball is touching any part of the 30, it’s a first down. Not this time, though. Oh, I know this is not a big deal to most of you, but as a man obsessed with keeping a clean football stat book, this drives me nuts because now the “official” line of scrimmage is the 29!

Beavers wake up in time to rally past Trappers

Where’s Eli? The Beavers scored right away when Trevor Huddleston returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Eli Whitmire, I’m told, did play on Woodland’s first defensive series. And he was on the punt return team when he injured an ankle.

The team’s leading rusher and touchdown machine did not return to the game, so he had no offensive snaps. I was told he wanted to return, but coaches said no, considering it was a non-league game and there was a playoff game on the horizon.

“Sprained ankle. He should be back,” Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf texted me Saturday.

Huddleston High School? No truth to the rumor (a rumor I’m starting, by the way) that Woodland High School will change its name when the new school opens to Huddleston High School. But it has to be considered, right? It seems like a Huddleston family member has been kicking butt in all kinds of sports for years.

Trevor Huddleston did a little bit of everything Friday night. Besides that kickoff return for a touchdown, he also had six receptions for 240 yards and two touchdowns. His last two receptions went for a combined 160 yards.

In case you did not notice: Don’t look now, but Fort Vancouver has a receiver who is among the top three in Southwest Washington.

David Bishop is the real deal.

On Friday, he concluded his fine season with five receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns. As a cornerback, he also had a pick-six. He had three touchdowns in the first quarter.

He caught a 31-yard pass to set up Fort’s final touchdown, which gave the Trappers a 34-33 lead with 4:55 to play.

Couple of record-breaking performances in these rivalry games.

Mountain View finished fourth in the 4A GSHL with a big win over Evergreen, and Preston Jones became the season rushing record holder for the Thunder.

Jones rushed for 217 yards and six touchdowns. By our count, that gives Jones 1,351 yards for the season. Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said that is a school record.

Jones, if you recall, missed Week 1, making his performance even more impressive. That’s 1,351 in eight games, and no playoff games. Congrats Preston.

Over at Battle Ground, the pass-happy Tigers are very happy with sophomore quarterback Gunner Talkington. He threw for 323 yards Friday night and six touchdowns. We have him for 2,552 yards and 28 touchdowns. Those are both school records. Congrats Gunner.


Papermakers complete undefeated regular season

Quick congrats to the Papermakers. We knew they were good, but we did not know they would be this good, not back in August anyway. This 9-0 record, against some really strong teams, too, is one of the best regular seasons we’ve seen in recent memory. Remember, this was a team that had 21 new starters. Incredible performance. Good luck in the playoffs.

Chieftains clinch league title

Another unpredictable game: Well, of course we predicted Columbia River would win. What we did not predict is that Kelso would score 17 points in a row in the fourth quarter and make it a game. The Chieftains would get one last touchdown, but this got closer than many of us expected it would.

Congrats to the Chieftains for a league title. It might be a four-team league, but it’s still a league title. Good luck in the playoffs.

That’s a winning season for the Panthers under first-year coach David Hajek. (I just like saying first-year coach David Hajek, even though it’s his first year back. This is his third stint as head coach. Call him Mr. Washougal.)

(These notes courtesy Rene Ferran, our fantastic freelancer!)
Spudders end season with three-game winning streak to finish 5-4 after going winless in 2013.

Quite the turnaround: Senior QB/DB Jonah Roberts said there was a bit of soul-searching after going 0-9 a year ago, with the Spudders being outscored 361-94 and losing only once (29-25 to Bay) by less than two touchdowns.

“As soon as the season ended, we asked ourselves, ‘Did we want to just call it quits?’ ” he said. “We did not want to be embarrassed like we were last year.”

Instead, the team re-dedicated itself during the summer, and returned this fall a much tighter group.

“We came back together as a team,” said senior Nathan Eggleston, who gained 181 yards on 20 carries.“We were not just playing as individuals any more, but caring for each other as a team.”

Roberts agreed. “We were not as close-knit as we were this year. I see everyone in this same jersey, and I can call each of them my brother.”

Bad to the bone: Ridgefield’s late-season turnaround also can be attributed to a change in philosophy by third-year coach Dan Anderson.

The Spudders switched to the wishbone full-time three games ago, with Eggleston splitting primary duties with junior Tommy Herz (87 yards and a TD on 11 carries Friday).

“I thought with the weather changing, and with us having such a tough physical front, I figured we would just overpower people with our front six,” Anderson said.

1,000-yard rusher? Eggleston’s big night likely put him over 1,000 yards for the season. However, because no stats were reported from the Spudders’ Week 8 win at Mark Morris, he officially has 950 yards in our database.

The missing game, however, was sandwiched by a 191-yard effort vs. Fort Vancouver and the 181 yards he gained Friday.

“Nathan’s probably the kid who worked the hardest in the offseason,” Anderson said. “I’m just so glad it could pay off for him with all these yards, running behind that front line. They may not be the biggest line in this league, but they’re just a tough bunch of kids.”

Goose egg: Ridgefield supporters breathed a sigh of relief when a late 41-yard field-goal try by Caleb Grahnert landed just short of the back line of the end zone, preserving the Spudders’ first shutout since October 2011.

The Spudders held Bay to just 218 yards of total offense, including 123 on the ground.

“We knew they had a strong run game, but we had a stronger defense,” said Roberts, who had a team-high six tackles, an interception and a pass breakup at safety. “We just played balls-out football.”

Bay’s future: The Eagles opened the year by winning the Peace Pipe from Fort Vancouver, but they finished it winless in 2A GSHL play, getting shut out for the fourth time this year, and with their fourth straight season of less than two wins.

Still, first-year co-coach Andy Meyer saw plenty of positives to build upon for the future.

“We didn’t have the bickering, the finger-pointing type of kids on this team,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. We didn’t have the number of wins we would have wanted, but we were as close (a team) tonight as we’ve ever been.”

The Eagles graduate WR/DB Anthony Sanchez, who had three catches Friday as well as eight tackles and a fumble recovery, and RB Nehemiah McDougal, the team’s top rusher this season who had 40 yards on nine carries in his finale.

However, they will return quarterbacks Jeremy Matheny and Jordan Hickman, linebacker Stone Sabourin (game-high 12 tackles), tight end Victor Gray and all-purpose player Tristan Maxwell as a solid core for 2015.

“These guys bought into the roles we asked of them,” Meyer said. “There was no selfish talk from the kids. They were battling at the end of the first half for a score. They battled the whole game. That’s a positive we’re able to take out of this.”

That’s it for this week. Hope to have notes from all the home playoff games next week, depending on which reporters are there, of course.

Playoff time, baby! Gonna be fun.


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