MENLO — If Raymond and Willapa Valley make their march through the Class 2B postseason, both teams will find their motivation from this Halloween rivalry matchup Thursday night at Crogstad Field.
The Gulls were in control throughout this Pacific 2B League contest, but never put a spirited Vikings squad away in a closer-than-it-looked 27-0 victory.
Raymond (5-0, 7-1), ranked fifth in the recent state 2B media poll, has secured an automatic berth into the state 2B playoffs and will get a week off before playing on Nov. 15 or 16.
Willapa Valley (3-2, 4-4) will be the league’s No. 3 seed and will host Adna next weekend in a district-to-state crossover contest.
But before the teams embark on their postseason journeys, they’ll find plenty of motivation, work and accomplishment to take away from this Thursday night rivalry game.
“It is a rivalry game on the road and if anyone has played in those, you know anything can happen,” Raymond head coach Rob Clements said. “I think the way this game went, we know we have to refocus. We had a bye coming into this game and while we had decent practices, they weren’t great. The seniors said that they need to refocus, because it is a one-game season now. No one wants that (bad) taste like LaConner (the team that eliminated the Gulls) last year.”
“We are so proud of what these guys did; I don’t care one bit about the scoreboard,” Willapa Valley head coach Greg Wonhoff said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m so happy for them. All of their hard work paid off. This game has to help (entering the postseason). The kids respect Raymond a lot. For us to come in here, this is a confidence booster. We can’t go out and fall apart like we did last year. These kids won’t let that happen.”
Senior running back Darol Ratsavongsy led all rushers with 116 yards on 13 bulldozing carries and two touchdowns for Raymond. The first of his two scoring runs was a 21-yard off-tackle run early in the second quarter, flipping the momentum back to Raymond’s sideline.
Willapa Valley’s defense made life difficult for Raymond in the first quarter, bottling up the Gulls’ speedy runners and preventing big plays from developing. Defenders Matt Konigsberger, Seth Flemetis and Cody Buchanan led the charge for the Vikings on Senior Night.
Konigsberger, playing defensive back and quarterback for Valley, earned Wonhoff’s praise for his efforts. The senior had 15 tackles total unofficially, including three pass defense plays that stalled Raymond drives.
“Both ways, that kid is so tough,” Wonhoff said of Konigsberger. “He’s turned up into a totally physical football player. He’s fearless and I’m pleased for him.”
In the face of the pressure, Raymond took the first quarter to get moving on offense. Its first drive ended on the second play from scrimmage with a fumble lost, its only turnover of the game. A 36-yard punt return by Marvin So allowed the Gulls to set up the Ratsavongsy’s first touchdown run.
Even with the troubles on offense, the Gull defense never allowed the Vikings to take advantage. Valley had just 42 yards of offense in the first half and got inside Raymond’s 20-yard line on just one drive in the second half.
“Defensively, we were able to take care of business,” Clements said. “Offensively, we didn’t execute like we should have. Valley had nine players in the box and were pressing. They had a great defensive game plan to limit our outside speed and force us to run in the middle. They forced us to play a very vanilla game and didn’t get those big plays we weren’t accustomed to.”
While the special teams helped Raymond set up its first drive, it also set up the second scoring drive of the first half as well. Raymond’s Hunter Borden blocked Valley’s punt and the Gulls recovered the ball at the Viking 11-yard line.
Five plays later, including two goal-line stands by Valley, quarterback Rayce Newman plunged in from 1-yard out for a 14-0 Raymond lead.
After halftime festivities, Raymond got its first true scoring drive of the night to kick-start the second half. After recovering a Valley onside kick at the Viking 47-yard line, the Gulls needed just seven plays to give Ratsavongsy a 1-yard scoring run and a 20-0 lead.
Ratsavongsy broke the drive open on a 35-yard run up the middle on fourth-and-1 to keep Raymond in control. Konigsberger caught Ratsavongsy at the 3-yard line.
“That was because of our line and our running backs — Ratsavongsy and Alex Sida,” Clements added. “They’ll grind out until you make a mistake and they’ll pop a big one on you. Darol was afraid that he was going to cramp (on the 35-yard run), so he turned and looked.”
Valley had one chance to snap the shutout, a 10-play, 17-yard drive that got as deep as the Raymond 5-yard line before moving backward to the 18-yard line. Konigsberger and Flemetis’ running powered the drive, which ended on a missed 35-yard field goal by Robert Espina.
Espina initially hit the field goal, but the game officials waved it off, saying they were not in position to restart the game.
Raymond got its one big scoring play of the game on its next drive, a 66-yard Newman bomb to Alex Sida down the far sideline for a touchdown with 7:24 remaining. Both teams stalled out on their final drives of the game.