ELMA — A pre-game inspirational speech, a win-or-else scenario and a Senior Night ceremony on its rival’s home field greeted Montesano Friday night at Davis Field in Elma.
In the end, it is just another chapter in the East County Civil War history book that will be painted maroon and gray.
Rushing for 475 yards overall, 306 of them in the first half alone, Montesano went from needing a win to qualify for a district berth to home-field advantage with a 42-14 Evergreen 1A League victory over Elma.
Before the game kicked off, Montesano (4-2, 5-4) entered the game needing a win just to get into the district crossovers. Former Montesano head coach Brent Whitaker, who won a state title in 1994, spoke to the Bulldogs, pumped them up and sent them out into that gentle night ready for war.
“It was so good, I wanted to go out there and play,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “It was pretty inspiring. The kids were really fired up and played Montesano football for the first time this season.”
And Montesano needed this win. Forks, which could have knocked the Bulldogs out if Elma had won, edged out Hoquiam, 10-7.
As it stood, Tenino (5-1, 5-4) came away with a 37-27 victory over Rochester for its first league title in football since 1986. This moved Montesano, with a tiebreaker edge over both Elma (4-2, 5-4) and Rochester (4-2, 6-3), up to the league’s No. 2 spot and a home game at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field next Friday night against Kalama.
“We’ve been a running team this season, but we just happened to hit some big plays on the ground,” said Jensen, whose team honored its seniors in prior to the game, a first for the rivalry on an opponent’s home field. “Our offensive line did a tremendous job — Jake Massoth, Evan Bialkowsky, Byron Peterson, Taylor Rupp and Connor Roy. They did a great job. We came out and played hard tonight. They knew this may have been their last game and they played like it. We started a lot faster tonight and that really helped us.”
Elma, which had a shot at claiming a share of the league title with a win and the No. 1 league seed with Tenino’s win, will now be the league’s No. 4 team and will get a road game next weekend against Trico League champion LaCenter.
“I thought we missed a whole lot of tackles and it was pretty disappointing,” Elma head coach Jim Hill said. “When you play a game like this, you don’t score in the red zone, that’s pretty tough. We could have held them down there as well. We missed some tackles and missed some plays. (Monte) played really well and executed. I’m just disappointed in our guys.”
Anthony Louthan ran for 323 yards and three touchdowns to power the Bulldog rushing attack, with Jacob Sampair adding 106 yards on 14 carries and two scores. The defense, however, had the first shot, when Sampair intercepted Elma quarterback Troy Collin on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Louthan opened the scoring on Monte’s second drive of the game, a 4-yard blast with 4:23 left in the first quarter. Sampair got the first of his two short-yardage touchdown runs on the Bulldogs’ next drive, a 1-yard plunge with 10:55 left in the first half. Louthan ran in a 2-point conversion for a 14-0 lead. Elma, which saw a drive end on Monte’s 5-yard line in between the Bulldogs’ two scoring drives, responded with its first touchdown. Collin capped a 62-yard, nine-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Steven Persell kicked the point-after attempt at 14-7.
With the offenses rolling, Montesano got the best of Elma to finish the first half. A 72-yard, 12-play drive ended with quarterback Noah Ewing hitting Tristan Darst for a 23-yard touchdown pass play. Darst spun out of two tackles before sprinting down the far sideline for the score.
The Bulldog defense kept the momentum going following the score. The Eagles rode Collin’s arm down to the Monte 35-yard line before a tipped pass by Sampair allowed Logan Truax to intercept with 1:37 left in the half.
With the ball at its own 25-yard line, Montesano capitalized on three big runs — a 31-yard sprint by Louthan, a 17-yard keeper by Ewing and a 13-yard blast by Sampair — before Sampair nudged in from 1-yard out and a 28-7 halftime lead.
Montesano took the opening possession of the second half and officially put the game away.
Well, Louthan did. The junior running back broke a 19-yard run and followed a 1-yard loss by Ewing with a 49-yard touchdown blast up the middle for a 35-7 lead.
Elma kept fighting, getting a long 55-yard drive to end the third quarter with Collin’s second rushing touchdown, a 1-yard plunge, at 35-14. Collin finished with 33 yards rushing on 11 attempts and 12-of-17 passes for 97 yards and two interceptions. Senior Todd Swinhart quietly ran for 105 yards on 19 carries.
Louthan and the first-team offense had their final drive of the night to eat up 5 minutes of game time, a 65-yard, 11-play march that was capped by Louthan’s 1-yard touchdown run. Prior to the scoring run, Louthan had a 34-yard off-tackle run to set it up.
“This game set the tone,” Louthan said. “I think everyone has bought in. I think this game will change our season. The coaches mixed a lot of things together, our run game was there. The linemen kept going. These guys are big and they believe in themselves.”
Elma’s final drive of the game ended on a lost fumble and Montesano’s second-team offense ran out the clock to trigger the celebration. It also sent coaches and fans to their smartphones to check for score updates on the other Evergreen 1A contests.