AMANDA PARK — On a balmy afternoon at Amanda Park, Taholah turned up the heat on its ground game in the second half.
Grinding out 308 yards rushing in the final two quarters, the Chitwhins rallied past stubborn Lake Quinault, 34-20, in the 19th annual River Bowl football game Saturday.
An unusually early edition of the River Bowl doubled as the contested Coastal League opener for both teams. The Chitwhins improved to 2-3 overall, while the Elks slipped to 1-3.
It was evident from the get-go that Taholah owned a significant advantage up front. But the underdog Elks used their speed to get to the edges rushing while hitting a few big passes in playing the Chitwhins even for the better part of three quarters.
After a true rarity in 8-man football, a scoreless second quarter, Quinault owned a 14-12 halftime lead.
The Chitwhins, however, largely disdained the pass in the second half in favor of a power-running attack. With Justin Curleybear and Andrew Mail-Goodman doing most of the damage, Taholah wound up logging 473 yards rushing.
“This hot weather was messing up our passing,” Taholah coach Donald Waugh explained. “We kind of changed up and put in our power package, chewed up yardage and used the heat to our advantage.”
Curleybear, who started the campaign at quarterback but was shifted to running back while recovering from an early season concussion, finished with 195 yards rushing on 11 carries. Mail-Goodman, used primarily in the second half, amassed 121 yards on 19 carries.
Waugh gave a large share of the credit to his offensive line, with John Law, Robert Northup and brothers Joseph and Derek Winn filling the interior slots.
Curleybear broke an 85-yard touchdown run on the third play of the second half. Mail-Goodman ran for the conversion and a 20-14 lead.
The Elks immediately answered with a 65-yard drive highlighted by quarterback Dalton Lines’ 16-yard run. Lines wound up sneaking it in from one yard away with 7:09 remaining in the third quarter. A failed conversion pass left it at 20-all.
The Chitwhins, however, needed only three plays following the ensuing kickoff to move in front to stay.
Wade Purdy’s 28-yard run accompanied by a 15-yard penalty for a horsecollar tackle moved it to the Quinault 22-yard line. Mail-Goodwin burst off left guard for another 20, then powered it into the end zone on the next carry. He also ran in the conversion.
Perhaps the game’s pivotal sequence transpired early in the fourth quarter. The Elks drove to the Chitwhin 4-yard line, but lost the ball on downs. Taholah then put together a long, time-consuming scoring drive capped by Jon Jackson’s 10-yard run with 7:37 left.
Lines’ 27-yard throw to Christian Garcia, with a roughing-the-passer penalty tacked on, gave Quinault first down on the Taholah 4 moments later. Again the Elks failed to move and their last hope evaporated with Lines’ fourth-down pass into the end zone was a trifle too high for Garcia.
“We had our opportunities,” Lake Quinault coach Darwin Sharrah reflected. “We got down (in the red zone) three times and didn’t punch it in. I put that on my shoulders for not having the right plan of attack in short-yard situations.”
Nevertheless, Quinault’s strong showing with a roster beefed up from nine to 22 (due primarily to the resolution of eligibility issues), provided optimism for the future.
Lines and Kobe Kalama combined to pass for 209 yards, while Lines also ran for 111 yards.
Sixty-eight of those came on a sweep that went the distance in the first quarter. Pablo Aguilar’s conversion run gave the Elks an early 8-0 lead.
After Purdy’s 5-yard TD run made it 8-6, Lines found Aguilar on a 44-yard scoring pass. Then Curleybear took a short pass from his younger brother Keanu and turned it into a 36-yard touchdown play with 2:24 remaining in the first quarter.
The Winn brothers, who recently became eligible, were among Taholah’s defensive standouts.
Sharrah cited the play of Lines, Kalama and Garcia on offense and Austin Peters and Richy Carlile defensively.
The Elks face Wishkah on Friday night at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field. The Chitwhins host Oakville the same night.
Tah 12 0 16 6 — 34 LQ 14 0 6 0 — 20
First Downs 21 14
Net Rushing 473 136
Net Passing 42 209
Passing 2-10 7-13
Had Intercepted 1 1
Fumbles Lost 2 0
Yards Penalized 83 54