Bill Templeton’s Kennewick Lions have been a scrappy bunch all season.
So why should Friday night against a powerful Mt. Spokane team be any different?
The Lions couldn’t hold a halftime lead and ended up falling to the visiting Wildcats 21-14 in a 3A regional game at Lampson Stadium.
“Our guys did a nice job,” said Templeton. “(Mt. Spokane) has a very good defense. We just left a couple of plays on the field in the second half.”
The visiting Wildcats dominated statistically everywhere except the most important place: the scoreboard.
Mt. Spokane outgained Kennewick 389 yards to 106. The Wildcats ran 74 offensive plays (63 runs) to the Lions’ 45.
And they held on to the football over twice as long as Kennewick had it. Mt. Spokane’s time of possession was 33 minutes and 51 seconds, to Kennewick’s 14:09.
But the Lions were always within just one play of getting even with the Wildcats.
In fact, Kennewick led 14-7 at the half.
After Mt. Spokane quarterback Brady Hill gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead on a 23-yard TD scamper, the Lions immediately responded when Talon LaFontaine returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards down to the 5. One play later, Kennewick QB Blaine Chavez bulled into the end zone for a 7-7 tie.
In the second quarter, the Lions defense forced three turnovers, and capitalized on one of them.
Chavez dived into the end zone for a TD from the 1, completing a 7-play, 35-yard drive, for a 14-7 Kennewick lead with 7:45 left until intermission.
It stayed that way until the second half, when the Wildcats opened the third quarter with a 56-yard drive using eight plays, culminating with big, bruising back Jeter Schuerman scoring on a 16-yard run to tie the game at 14-14.
Two drives later the Wildcats – using, ironically, the Wildcat formation with Schuerman at the helm – drove 50 yards on six plays, with Hill scoring from the 1 for the go-ahead points and what proved to be an insurmountable 21-14 lead. On the drive, Schuerman ran the other five plays, picking up 49 yards.
The Lions couldn’t make anything happen in the second half, going 3-and-out on their first four possessions. They were able to cobble together two first downs on their last drive, but couldn’t get any closer than the Wildcats’ 32.
And the Kennewick defense was out on the field so long, it just wore down.
“They’re a quality program,” Templeton said of Mt. Spokane. “We’ll be OK. This is a part of life. They’ll remember the friendships they made on this team.”
The Lions finish 6-4, and they had some quality wins over fellow Mid-Columbia Conference 3A schools Hermiston and Kamiakin. And of the 59 players on Kennewick’s varsity roster, only 13 graduate next June.
NOTES: Schuerman finished with 139 yards rushing for the Wildcats (8-2), who await their ranking and pairing announcement on Sunday. … DL Bryan Knapik led Kennewick’s defense with 13 tackles (3 for loss) and a forced fumble. DL Jagger Child’s added 6 tackles (2 for loss) and two hurries, while DB Cody LaFontaine had 7 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.