Day After Report: Columbia River 35, Woodland 24

The Chieftains seize control of the 2A Greater St. Helens League standings as the only undefeated team left in league play.

After getting shut out last week in a nonleague loss to Skyview, Columbia River coach Christian Swain knew his team needed to get off to a strong start offensively in its return to 2A GSHL play.

The Chieftains came out roaring before a Homecoming crowd at Chieftain Stadium.

Their first play from scrimmage was a doozy. Quarterback Jack Armstrong handed off to his tailback, who flipped the ball to wide receiver Dalton Garrett on an apparent reverse. Instead, Garrett pulled up and looped a long pass downfield to a wide-open Armstrong down the right sideline.

Armstrong eluded one pursuer before getting shoved out of bounds at the Woodland 20 for a 35-yard pickup. Four plays later, he executed a nifty fake before sprinting around left end and sneaking inside the left pylon for a touchdown.

“Biggest drive of the season,” Swain declared afterward.

“Coming off last week, we were disappointed with how we played against Skyview. But I saw how our kids responded at practice on Monday. They’d won something like five straight district championships (in reality, three of the last four 3A GSHL titles), and they knew they were in league play now, so there definitely was a sense of urgency.”

Next up for the Chieftains is their biggest rival left to 2A GSHL supremacy—defending league champion Hockinson, at Nautilus Stadium, next week. The Chieftains were well aware that Woodland already had handed Hockinson a Week 3 loss as they prepared for Friday’s tilt.

“Very much so,” said senior running back Nathaniel Trevino, an Evergreen transfer who busted out with a 102-yard, two-touchdown game. “This was a big game since Woodland beat Hockinson, and we wanted to capitalize on that.”

But if the Chieftains don’t follow up their big win over the Beavers with a similar performance against the Hawks?

“We have tremendous respect for the Hockinson program,” Swain said. “We know they’ll be ready to play. They’re the defending champs, so something has got to give next week.”

BEND, DON’T BREAK: The Chieftains defense had a bend-but-don’t-break feel to it against Woodland. The Beavers took advantage of some poor special teams play by River to get short fields on several occasions, converting once for their first touchdown.

Still, Woodland left several opportunities on the table. The Beavers were only 4-for-14 on third-down conversions, and both of their offensive touchdowns came on fourth-down plays, they also turned the ball over three times on downs—twice deep in River territory.

“Those were super important,” said River senior Shawn Sadler, who had a game-high 10 tackles. “It’s always a momentum shifter when you can stop a team on fourth down. We just stood up and did our job.”

HURTING BEAVERS: Injuries have taken their toll on the Woodland attack. The Beavers were without their top two running backs because of injury—Tristan Thomas (collarbone) and Levi Orem (ankle)—leaving them shorthanded.

They finished with just 6 rushing yards, although a bulk of their lost rushing yardage came on a bad snap from center that turned into a 20-yard loss and a turnover.

First-year coach Mike Woodward didn’t mince words with his team in his postgame talk. The theme—he loved the effort, but there were a lot of mistakes that needed to be cleaned up before next week’s home game with Washougal, and the injuries wouldn’t be an excuse.

“No more bad snaps, no more dropped balls, no more funkiness,” he said to his huddled players.

“I’m frustrated right now, because we played with a tremendous amount of heart, and that’s all I can ask for,” Woodward said. “But we’ve been making some silly mistakes, really. We had a good week of practice, but under the lights, it’s a different ballgame.”

This and that: This was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. … Including 3A GSHL  play, River has now won nine straight league contests dating back to the end of the 2013 season. Since 2012, the Chieftains are 18-1 in league games. … Trevino was a second-team All-4A GSHL defensive back last year for Evergreen. … If Columbia River and Woodland win out, the Beavers will finish second in league play and earn a district playoff home game. It’s a familiar position for Woodland—it was a league runner-up every year from 2011-2014, twice to La Center in 1A and twice to Hockinson in 2A. … LB Trent Snead led the Beavers with 10 tackles. Koben Jamison had nine tackles, two for loss, for River, while Paul Meister had seven tackles, two for loss, and blocked a fourth-quarter punt.

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