PESHASTIN — Cashmere entered its Pear Bowl clash against Cascade on a 17-game Caribou Trail League regular-season winning streak.
The Bulldogs ran that streak to 18 with a dominating 48-20 win at the Peshastin Dryden Sports Complex. Bulldogs coach Phil Zukowski is of course happy that his team has been able to win so much, but the streak is not something that he gives a lot of thought to on a regular basis.
“That’s for (other people) to look at,” Zukowski said after the game with a laugh. “It’s like at the craps table. There’s a thing called mojo, you know?”
Cashmere has certainly had its mojo working this season. With Friday’s win, the Bulldogs clinched at least a share of their third straight CTL title and the league’s top seed into the 10th-week crossover games with the Northeast A League.
“I can’t explain how good it feels,” said Cashmere’s Casey Ruether, who ran for 54 yards, passed for 63 and score two touchdowns against the Kodiaks. “It’s such an honor to play with the group of guys I get to play with each week.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs were able to celebrate not only another league title, but another victory over their arch rivals.
Cashmere hasn’t lost to Cascade since 2006.
“I think for everybody, extra smiles tonight, because it is a rivalry game,” Zukowski said. “They know each other as opponents, but they also know each other as friends. Both teams grew up together, basically. And then you’ve got the rivalry and the two communities, so when you play well enough to win, it’s an extra smile for everybody. You can see the extra enthusiasm here after the game — the smiles, the jumping around.”
“There’s a lot of respect for one another,” Ruether said. “I respect the hell out of (Cascade) coach (Elia Ala’ilima)-Daley. He’s one of the best gentlemen that I’ve got the chance to know. We see each other all the time, (we’re) constantly playing each other, constantly talking about each other. It’s a mutual respect, though, no doubt.”
For Cascade (3-3 CTL), this season began with high hopes. Heading into the last week of the regular season, though, the Kodiaks are sitting in a tie for fourth place, haven’t guaranteed themselves of a playoff spot yet, and have lost two straight games.
The Kodiaks will earn the league’s final playoff berth and a trip to play the NEA league champion in two weeks if they beat Brewster on Friday.
“We’re looking to get that No. 4 spot, and Brewster’s no pushover,” said Ala’ilima-Daley. “I laid it out to the boys; I said, ‘You have a choice — after two tough losses, what (do) you want to do with the season? We beat Brewster, we probably head to Freeman for the crossover. We win that game, we’ll steal a No. 1 berth to state and have a home game.’ The kids were kind of like, ‘Oh, it’s still there.’ If we take care of business next week, we’ve got a good shot at it.”
The key play in Friday’s game came after Dennis Merritt scored a touchdown to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 20-13 with 17 seconds left in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cascade squib-kicked toward the left sideline, but Ruether scooped up the ball, ran horizontally to the other side of the field and followed a series of blockers into the end zone for a touchdown as time expired in the first half.
“It definitely helped,” Ruether said. “I wanted to get a chance to do something with the ball, and luckily the ball came to me, and I did what I could, but I had great blocks the whole way. When we go back and watch the film, (we’ll see) about four ‘KO’ blocks; I wouldn’t have scored without them. At the end of the half, you usually let the clock run out, but the ball kept rolling and kept rolling, and I found it in my hands, and I did my best, and it worked out.”
Rex Pittsinger rushed for 319 yards and four touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Merritt recorded 175 yards and two scores for the Kodiaks, who turned the ball over four times.
Okanogan 35, Quincy 34
Okanogan wrapped up the CTL’s No. 2 seed with a thrilling win over Quincy.
The Jackrabbits scored on a 10-yard touchdown reception by Connor Trevino late in the fourth quarter to get within 35-34, but the ensuing two-point conversion failed, sealing the Bulldoggs’ win.
Tyler Morris ran for 121 yards for the Bulldogs (5-1 CTL). Trevino had four catches for 175 yards.
Quincy (3-3 CTL) still has a chance at earning a playoff spot if it can upset Cashmere on Friday.
Brewster 35, Chelan 16
Chelan solidified its grip on the third playoff seed with a win over visiting Brewster.
Tanner Hendricks had 182 rushing yards for the Goats (4-2 CTL).
Chelan intercepted Brewster quarterback Mitch Boesel four times.
“We were resilient, and had good senior leadership,” said Chelan coach Travis Domser.