Thanks to a relentless ground game, whatever momentum Wishkah lost at the end of the first half was regained with interest in the final two quarters.
Three players cracked the 100-yard mark in rushing as the Loggers overcame a spectacular and controversial King’s Way touchdown run at the first half for a 50-36 victory in a non-league football game Saturday at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
The Loggers (3-1) racked up 470 yards rushing against a King’s Way team that boasts nary a senior but entered the contest at 3-0. King’s Way, actually a Class 1A school, is playing as an 8-man independent this season.
Junior quarterback Keigan Gardiner ran for 222 yards and scored three touchdowns for Wishkah. Fullback Lukas Stevens added 122 yards on 21 carries, while running back/end Ethen Arnold netted an even 100. Arnold, however, also went the distance on a 79-yard kickoff return and had an apparent 80-yard TD scamper from scrimmage nullified by a penalty.
That type of rushing balance enabled Wishkah to overcome an outstanding performance by fleet-footed, elusive King’s Way quarterback Jay Becker, who amassed more than 300 yards of total offense.
Trailing 22-8, the Knights from the Vancouver area had the ball on Wishkah’s 41-yard line with seven seconds remaining in the first half. The halftime horn sounded as Becker scrambled out of the pocket and took off down the left sideline.
Hit inside the 5, Becker tumbled across the pylon. The officials called it a touchdown over the protests of Wishkah players and coaches, who insisted Becker had stepped out of bounds at around the 2.
Becker’s conversion run, which appeared to be stopped clearly short of the goal, was also ruled good, enabling the Knights to close the deficit to 22-16.
The Loggers, however, shrugged off the effects of the potentially game-changing sequence with a critical defensive stand in the third quarter.
Becker’s apparent 7-yard TD run on the first possession of the second half was called back by a block-in-the-back infraction. After Wishkah sophomore Jacob Gardiner nailed Nathan Swift for an 11-yard loss, the Knights wound up losing the ball on downs all the way back on the 31.
The Loggers then proceeded to cover the distance in 10 plays, with Stevens punching it in from a yard away. Keigan Gardiner passed to Bo Barber for the conversion.
Keigan Gardiner’s 30-yard run highlighted an 80-yard scoring drive on Wishkah’s next possession. The Logger quarterback went straight ahead for the touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 9:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.
King’s Way closed the gap to 36-22 on Becker’s 2-yard scoring run with 6:21 remaining.
But Arnold took a squib kick on his 21, veered to the left side and was gone.
That essentially sealed the deal, despite three touchdowns in the final 2:51. Keigan Gardiner’s 50-yard jaunt on a keeper was sandwiched between two scoring runs by Becker — a 57-yarder in which he cramped up just prior to the goal and a 1-yard scramble on the final play of the game.
In the final analysis , the key to the outcome may have come in the opening eight minutes. The Loggers scored twice to lead 16-0 before King’s Way Christian even went on offense.
Keigan Gardiner raced 41 yards on a fourth-and-10 sweep and passed to Arnold for the conversion on the game’s opening possesson.
Wishkah’s Robert Rodriguez then recovered an onside kick to launch a 48-yard scoring drive that ended with Stevens’ TD plunge from about the 1-foot line. Gardiner ran for the conversion.
“We scrimmaged against them in camp and we thought we’d be real competitive with them, (particularly) if we got up on them,” Wishkah coach Brad Taylor Sr. said. “That’s what we were trying to do, control the ball.”
Becker’s 10-yard TD run in the second quarter was answered by Arnold’s 32-yard scoring scamper.
Trey Berge, Jacob Gardiner and Austin Barber were the interior linemen who opened the holes for the running backs. Arnold and Jacob Gardiner were among the defensive standouts.
The Loggers travel to the Vancouver area to face State Deaf on Thursday afternoon.