Gardiner’s five touchdowns pace Wishkah

WISHKAH — Getting Keigan Gardiner the ball in the open field proved to be the perfect tonic for a slow-starting Wishkah offense.

Gardiner rushed for 116 yards and scored five touchdowns as the Loggers erupted in the final three quarters for a 52-0 rout of Clallam Bay in a non-league football opener Saturday at Addison Field.

The contest marked Wishkah’s return to Addison Field following a two-year absence due to field maintenance. The termite-infested grandstand, however, has been removed, with temporary bleachers installed for this season’s slate of home games.

Clallam Bay had no answer for Gardiner, a former quarterback converted to running back this season. A state hurdles champion in track who also has the knack of changing speed and direction exceptionally well on the gridiron, the senior scored on runs of 1, 20, 6 and 20 yards and a 41-yard fumble return. He also had an apparent 76-yard touchdown run wiped out by a holding penalty.

Teammate Bo Barber amassed 94 yards on only five carries. His 56-yard touchdown run triggered the 40-point mercy rule, in which the clock runs continuously, with 6:33 remaining in the third quarter.

Despite the final margin, the outcome was very much in doubt for the better part of the first half. The Loggers didn’t open the scoring until their final play of the first quarter and owned only a 6-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the half.

“They were real tired (due to the heat) in the beginning,” first-year Wishkah coach Mike Mitchell explained. “But they pulled it together.”

He credited the offensive line of Trey Berge, Gabe Quintero, Jacob Gardiner and tight ends Chris Thein and Dillon Mitchell with sparking the turnaround.

Coach Mitchell may have even more pleased with the shutout. The Loggers experienced difficulty defending quality teams last season.

“That was our big downfall last year,” he affirmed. “We’ve worked on defense over and over.”

The Bruins netted only 60 yards of total offense.

Although they never advanced beyond the Wishkah 28-yard line in the first half, the Bruins controlled the clock for the majority of the opening quarter.

A fumbled snap on a Clallam Bay punt, recovered by Jacob Gardiner on the Bruin 14, gave Wishkah its first scoring opportunity. Keigan Gardiner punched it in from less than a yard away with 18 seconds remaining in the period.

Keigan Gardiner nearly went the distance on a sweep to the right late in the second quarter but was pushed out of bounds on the Bruin 10 after a 47-yard gain. Following a pair of losses, the Loggers faced fourth-and-goal from the 20, but Gardiner shook loose on a sweep to the left and scored standing up. He also ran for the conversion and a 14-0 lead with 3:30 remaining in the half.

His own 35-yard punt return and a pair of Jace Anderson-to-Barber passes set up Gardiner’s 6-yard scoring run 49 seconds prior to intermission. Keigan then scooped up a Bruin fumble and took it 41 yards to the house with 11 seconds remaining in the half.

It was 30-0 at that stage. Gardiner’s second 20-yard scoring run and Barber’s long TD sprint implemented the mercy rule.

Josiah Olson raced 75 yards with another recovered fumble with about 4:45 left in the game.

Anderson ran for two conversions and Will Fultz another for the Loggers.

Berge had an exceptional game defensively. Coach Mitchell cited the play of the entire defensive line, which also included J. Gardiner, Quintero, Thein and Dillon Mitchell.

The Loggers make the long trek to Lopez Island next Saturday.