MOUNT VERNON — Two stout defenses showed up on a cold, rainy Saturday in Mount Vernon, but one offense came up with the drive to put the game away.
Leading 13-7, LaConner took the air out of the ball and never allowed Raymond a chance to respond to secure a 21-7 state 2B quarterfinal victory at Mount Vernon High School.
The Braves’ Dahlton Zavala ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns on the day, but it was an 80-yard, 16-play drive that ate up nearly 7 1/2 minutes that clinched the contest.
“We just couldn’t get off the field,” Raymond head coach Rob Clements said. “It was 13-7 at that point. If you get the stop, you have a chance. We had a drive to start the second half, but we got into a long situation. When you face teams that are 8-9 men in the box, you can’t do things to push yourself backward.”
Trailing 13-7 after three quarters, Raymond needed what turned into its final significant drive of the contest to last.
After a pass interference call against LaConner extended the drive to midfield, Raymond was forced to punt four plays later.
With 10:04 left in the game, LaConner took the ball at its 20-yard line. Behind the trio of Zavala, running back Jimmy Brooks and quarterback Sean Hulbert, the Braves ran the ball.
Utilizing their advantage at the line of scrimmage, the Braves ran inside with their trio and ate up yards, time and the Gulls’ hopes.
Five big runs for first downs — two each for Hulbert and Brooks and one by Zavala — kept the drive moving. Brooks got a big first down to Raymond’s 4-yard line on fourth down to set up Zavala’s second score of the day one play later.
Leading 21-7, following a Hulbert 2-point run, with 2:48 left in the game, that drive clinched the game for LaConner.
“When you get your chances to make the plays, are you ready to do it?” Clements asked. “We had some chances for some picks, for runs around the edge, to make the tackle. At this point in the season, one or two plays make the difference in the game. I think they made more of those plays than we did tonight and that’s what the game came down to.”
LaConner bulldozed its way into the lead on the game’s opening drive. Brooks’ 14-yard touchdown run around the left end gave the Braves a 7-0 lead.
From there, both defenses took center stage. The vaunted running games that were the pregame focus were slowed and smothered in the rain.
Raymond (7-3) caught its break on LaConner’s only turnover — a Zavala fumble at the Raymond 42-yard line. In eight plays, the Gulls got onto the scoreboard when quarterback Andrew Hamilton’s 1-yard sneak on fourth down was good with 3:41 left in the first half.
Alex Sida’s 38-yard sprint around the left end was the pivotal play of the drive and the Gulls’ longest run of the contest.
Raymond felt the momentum slip away on LaConner’s next drive. The Gulls were prepared to stop the Braves on fourth-down at the LaConner 44-yard line, but Zavala broke three arm tackles and sprinted 56 yards for a touchdown.
Zavala ran for 112 yards, more than all of Raymond’s runners combined (75 yards), in the first half.
Carte Bisbee led the Raymond defense with seven solo tackles and 13 assists and Hamilton had six solo tackles and nine assists.
“It is nice to be in this position to be hurt,” Clements said. “That’s the tough thing. The guys worked hard to get this opportunity and the right to win the game. I told them that it is going to sting, but honor the seniors. They won’t get another chance, but the younger guys and the coaches get the chance to learn never to have this happen again.”
Braves 21, Gulls 7
Ray 0 7 0 0 — 7 LaC 7 6 0 8 — 21
First Downs 8 17
Net Rushing 93 294
Net Passing 0 16
Total Net Offense 93 310
Passing 0-5 3-11
Had Intercepted 2 0
Fumbles Lost 2 1
Penalty Yards 40 4 3