Day After Report: Columbia River 43, Mark Morris 13
Coach John O’Rourke celebrated his 150th career victory with a host of former players who returned to Chieftain Stadium for the occasion.
“I looked up there and saw all those guys, and I thought, ‘What are they all doing here?’ ” O’Rourke said. “The guys showed their appreciation. We work to create that loyalty within the team, and it never really goes away.”
O’Rourke, who turned 70 a week ago, is now 150-71 in 22 seasons at River.
“They were joking with me back in eighth grade, ‘Will you still be coaching when I get to high school?’ ” O’Rourke said. “And now here they are, in their 30s. With all these groups of kids that come back, it just validates all the sacrifices our family has to go through.”
The Chieftains got a taste of what life would be like without do-everything senior Garrett McKee in the fourth quarter.
McKee’s right calf cramped up after making a 13-yard catch from Blake Duhamel on a fleaflicker play in the red zone. McKee, the starting quarterback, also handles punting and placekicking duties for River.
McKee didn’t return after limping off the field — why would he, with the game well in hand — and sophomore Anthony Jenkins took over behind center.
Another sophomore, Austin Carter, handled the Chieftains’ final punt, booming a 40-yarder out of his end zone. As for placekicker, River ran a fake on its extra-point try after its final touchdown following McKee’s injury, with holder Nathan Kunz running in the conversion.
“My hydration was not up to where it needed to be,” said McKee, who should be good to go for next week’s nonleague home game vs. Centralia. “I’ll learn from that.”
One position where River has plenty of depth is at running back, and it showcased three contenders who all could be feature backs at some point this year.
Senior Travon Santiago started at tailback, scored the Chieftains’ first touchdown, and finished with a team-high 48 yards on nine carries.
Junior Hunter Pearson took over late in the first quarter, scored River’s second touchdown, and also finished with nine carries for 40 yards.
Then it was senior Ryder Waite’s turn, replacing Santiago on River’s second drive of the second half. Waite had six carries for 37 yards before yielding to Pearson.
Take away a five-minute stretch spanning halftime, during which Mark Morris scored both of its touchdowns, and River controlled its nonleague opponent.
The Chieftains twice stopped the Monarchs inside the 10-yard line, forcing a missed 20-yard field goal on one and holding on fourth-and-goal with their second-stringers late.
First-year starting free safety Noholoa Lidstone led the defense with nine tackles, while senior linebacker Matt Ruffalo had seven tackles and a sack. Waite and junior Shawn Sadler added six tackles apiece, and Waite recovered a first-quarter fumble that set up River’s first touchdown.