Big defensive plays by Joel Brown weren’t quite enough to ensure a happy ending to the Grays Harbor Bearcats’ Pacific Football League opener.
A late field goal enabled the Yakima Mavericks to edge the Bearcats, 17-14, on a wet, cold night Saturday at Stewart Field.
In the third quarter, with the Bearcats trailing 14-2, Brown intercepted an Alex Mahre pass in the end zone and returned it to Grays Harbor’s 36-yard line. The Bearcat offense had gained just 66 yards prior to Brown’s pick, but the take-away quickly shifted the momentum in Grays Harbor’s favor.
“That’s what happens in football,” Grays Harbor head coach Todd Hoiness said. “It’s such an emotional game. You get a nice play and it gets everybody fired up and believing that you can make plays. It really keeps guys going. (Brown’s interception) had a huge effect. He’s a great player and it was a nice play.”
Brown led the team with 12 tackles, three for a loss. The linebacker also recorded a safety in the second quarter to account for Grays Harbor’s only first-half points.
On the ensuing possession, the Bearcats (0-1 in league play, 0-3 overall) were faced with a fourth down on the Mavericks’ 36 yard line, and needed eight yards to keep the drive alive. Leo Dickerson lofted a pass toward Derek Archer on the right side of the field.
Archer leaped to pull down a contested catch for a 24-yard gain and a first down. A face mask penalty at the end of the play tacked on six more yards and advanced the ball to the 6-yard line.
On the next play, Cameron Smith took a sweep off the left side into the end zone for Grays Harbor’s first touchdown. The Bearcats were unable to convert the extra point due to a bad snap, but the score cut Yakima’s lead to 14-8.
On the first play from scrimmage of Yakima’s next possession, Brown planted Mavericks running back Trevon Harris in the backfield for a five-yard loss. Harris left the game with an injury and did not return.
The possession ended with a punt, which was shanked out of bounds by Josef Kistler to give the Bearcats good field position at their 45-yard line.
Grays Harbor’s offense carried the momentum created by its defense into its next possession as well. A 25-yard pass from Dickerson to Jeremy Walker got the Bearcats into the red zone. Two plays later, Dickerson found Loyal Linton wide open in the right side of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass, which tied the game at 14-14 with 14:54 left.
Once again, a poor snap prevented the Bearcats from converting the extra point. However, an inadvertent whistle by an official gave the Bearcats another chance. They elected to go for a two-point conversion, which was also unsuccessful due to a poor snap.
According to Hoiness, the team is down to its fourth -tring long snapper due to injuries. The coach added that the conditions made it very difficult to handle the ball.
Still tied late in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats lined up to punt from their own 45-yard line. However, the snap was too low for punter Archer to handle. Yakima’s William Quinn pounced on the ball, giving the Mavericks excellent field position at Grays Harbor’s 37-yard line.
On the first play, Jeremy Franck burst through a wide-open gap and ran for 26 yards to the 11-yard line. Three more runs advanced the ball to the 5-yard line, then Mahre kicked a 21-yard field goal to give Yakima a 17-14 lead with just 1:39 left.
Following the ensuring kickoff, the Bearcats made it as far as the Mavericks’ 35-yard line. However, after a sack and a penalty pushed them back, they turned over the ball on downs at midfield, essentially ending the game.
Despite the loss, Hoiness was pleased with how his team played.
“Every rep that Leo (Dickerson) gets at quarterback helps since he’s new to the system,” Hoiness said. ”We’re getting better. There are some things that are going to take time. We definitely improved tonight. It was a great effort on both sides and a heck of a game. I think this puts us on track. I think we’ll get better every week.”
A 1-yard touchdown run by Jesse Cardenas capped off a nine-play, 63-yard opening drive by Yakima for the first points of the game. Yakima’s only other touchdown was a 3-yard pass from Mahre to Andrew Watson early in the third quarter.
The Bearcats (0-1, 0-3) will travel to Bellingham on Saturday to face the reigning PFL champion Bulldogs.
Yakima 7 0 7 3 — 17 G. Harb 0 2 6 6 — 14
First Downs 15 16
Net Rushing 198 62
Net Passing 59 159
Total Net Yardage 257 221
Passing 4-13 11-28
Had Intercepted 1 3
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Yards Penalized 86 90