The Wishkah Loggers utilized a diverse and effective rushing attack, and took advantage of the visiting Lake Quinault Elks’ early red-zone woes en route to a decisive 64-34 victory in a Pacific Coast Football League game Friday night at Stewart Field.
Wishkah favored its rushing attack in this game, passing just five times. Junior quarterback Keigan Gardiner scored four touchdowns in the game, all on the ground, and led the Loggers with 168 rushing yards on 20 carries.
The Loggers utilized Gardiner’s speed by running him to the outside, and complemented that with the bruising running of Lukas Stevens, Bo Barber, and Ethen Arnold up the middle.
“The passing game is there if we have to use it, but we are a running team,” Wishkah head coach Brad Taylor said. “We practiced running plays all week.”
“Wishkah is a great team. We knew that coming in,” Lake Quinault head coach Darwin Sharrah said. “There is a reason that they are considered one of the top 8-man teams in the state. Defense was our biggest problem, stopping the run up the middle.”
Wishkah put its first points on the board when Stevens rushed four times for 31 yards, and punctuated the drive by pounding it in from 6 yards out with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter. Stevens ran the ball 19 times for 154 yards and also scored on runs of 4 and 9 yards later in the game.
Early in the second quarter, Gardiner intercepted a Dalton Lines pass in the Loggers’ end zone. Gardiner capped off the ensuing 11-play, 89-yard drive by scoring a touchdown from 20 yards out on a designed quarterback run to the left. Gardiner then hooked up with Stevens for the 2-point conversion, putting Wishkah up, 22-0.
Quinault came up empty on its first four trips inside Wishkah’s 20-yard line, giving the Loggers plenty of opportunity to build a big early lead. Three of those drives ended with turnovers — two interceptions and one fumble — and the other ended when Quinault knocked on the door, but failed to score when the first half ended.
Kobe Kalama scored the Elks’ only points of the first half when he intercepted a Gardiner pass, and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with 3:40 left in the second quarter. Kalama also rushed for 78 yards, scored two rushing touchdowns, and passed for 121 yards in the contest after taking over at quarterback in the second quarter.
”We have two quarterbacks that are capable of starting” said Sharrah. “This week, we went with Dalton in the first quarter, and Kobe in the second quarter. Kobe really had the offense rolling, so we kept him in through the second half, and he played really well.”
After a Loggers fumble in the third quarter, Kalama threw a short pass to Pablo Aguilar, who rumbled 13 yards for the score. Kalama then hooked up with Lines for the 2-point conversion, making it 34-16. Unfortunately for the Elks, they were not able to get any closer to the Loggers after that.
Perhaps Kalama’s most impressive throw came in the fourth quarter when he completed a 44-yard pass to Larson on a fourth down with 27 yards to go that kept an Elks drive alive. Jorge Ochoa scored on a 1 yard run, two plays later.
Early in the fourth quarter, when Quinault was trying to close the scoring gap, the Elks attempted an onside kick. Stevens went after the ball aggressively, and not only recovered it, but returned it 40 yards to the Quinault 7-yard line. Arnold ran it in on the first play from scrimmage following.
Although they were down by 20 points or more the entire fourth quarter, the Elks did not give up. With less than two minutes left in the game, Trenton Larson broke multiple tackles in the backfield, and broke free for a 33-yard run. Two plays later, Kalama broke multiple tackles, and scrambled for 22 yards down to the Loggers’ 1-yard line. Kalama ran it in a few plays later.
On Friday, the Elks will travel to Lyle/Wishram to take on the Cougars, and the Loggers will travel to Oakville to take on the Acorns.