Day After Report: Columbia River 35, Washougal 21
— Rene Ferran (@ReneJFerranJr) September 17, 2016
After almost four decades as a 3A or 4A school, the Chieftains made their GSHL 2A debut a successful one, but not without some early hiccups.
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The play of the game turned on one player realizing the whistle hadn’t blown play dead.
River senior Koben Jamison was locked in coverage in the right flat while the line swarmed Washougal backup quarterback Grant Lewis on a third-and- 12 play with 6½ minutes to play.
Lewis was in the grasp, but saw the receiver in the area and tossed the ball in his direction. The ball hit the turf, and 21 players readied for fourth down.
The 22 nd player realized no whistle had blown. Jamison figured he had nothing to lose, so he picked the ball up and started sprinting toward the end zone.
The officials didn’t stop him, and the Panthers were too stunned to give chase until it was too late. The touchdown gave the Chieftains a 28-14 lead, and they held on from there.
“Our defensive backs coach, DeWayne Patterson, teaches the players to assume it’s a live ball and to pick it up and go,” said River coach Christian Swain. “Koben had the field awareness to scoop it up and go.”
Jamison later had an interception that set up a clinching touchdown with 2:03 to play. The Chieftains forced three second-half turnovers and blocked a field goal in the third quarter as they erased a 14-3 second-quarter deficit.
Jamison credited some halftime adjustments, including moving him from nickelback to free safety, with River's second-half defensive success.
“We slowed ourselves down and did our jobs,” he said.
Swain added, “They were killing us in zone. We were bailing out, so we switched to man coverage and got bigger up front, and we caused some problems for them.”
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Another adjustment the Chieftains made was to mix in play-action passes to complement another hard-running night from senior Hunter Pearson (33 carries, 138 yards).
Sophomore Jack Armstrong, making his first career start at quarterback, had attempted only five passes prior to Friday, but he finished 12-of- 17 for 200 yards and two touchdowns—both coming on play-action rollout plays to his left in the second half.
“That’s always been our vision for this offensive system,” Swain said. “We want to have opponents pack the box, because we’ve got talent at receiver and an athletic quarterback, so that gets us some matchups outside that we can attack.”
Junior Anthony Jenkins started the first two games for River, but Armstrong’s performance in relief in a 49-0 Week 2 loss to Tumwater convinced Swain to give the sophomore his shot Friday.
“We've got four quarterbacks, and I love all four,” said Swain, whose team had completed only 11 passes for 98 yards over the first two weeks. “There’s really no separation between them. Tonight, I decided to go with Jack because he did the best last week. I'm proud of how he played.”
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The Panthers dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 2008, but not for lack of trying. They led 14-10 at halftime and hung with River for more than three quarters before Jamison's play put them into hurry-up mode.
“After the pick-six, the momentum just shifted,” said junior quarterback Ryan Stevens, who was 15-of- 30 for 202 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We fought to get back in it, but it came down to one-on- one physicality and who wanted it more.”
Stevens pointed to his team's lack of depth—only 28 players are listed on the varsity roster vs. River's 57—as a factor in its second-half fade.
“That's been the problem the last three weeks,” he said. “Our opponents always have had fresh legs, and we're gassed.”
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This and that: River improved to 6-0 all-time against Washougal. Their previous meetings took place from 2001-05, when both were members of the GSHL 3A. … River won its sixth straight league opener. … Dalton Garrett and Nathan Kunz had one catch each in River's first two games. They each had five receptions Friday. … Jake Klackner, who made seven catches for 102 yards for Washougal, had only three catches in the first two weeks. … River travels to Longview next week to take on R.A. Long. The Chieftains beat the Lumberjacks 38-14 in nonleague play to open the 2015 season and own a nine-game win streak in the series. RAL last beat River in 1978. …Washougal hosts Mark Morris next week. The Monarchs won last year’s matchup 23-7 and have beaten the Panthers in nine of their last 10 meetings.