EPHRATA — Jacob Laird doesn’t care what anybody else might think. The Ephrata lineman is extremely confident in his team’s prospects for having a prosperous 2013 season, and if somebody tries to tell him differently, he’ll be happy to engage him or her in a spirited debate.
“I expect us to be in the top four in the state,” Laird said after the Tigers’ 28-12 victory Friday over Quincy at Kiwanis Field. “Some people may laugh or smile when I say that, but I know we’re capable of doing it. We’ve got a lot of guys with experience and some new guys that are (capable of doing well).”
Gridiron success has been hard to come by during the past decade in the Columbia Basin town. Before last year, Ephrata had posted a 37-71 record in head coach Jay Mills’ first 12 years at the helm.
But in 2012, the Tigers posted a 6-4 mark, and it’s clear that they’re entering this campaign with not just hopes of consistent winning, but expectations of consistent winning.
“It starts with our senior class,” Mills said. “They’ve shown great leadership ability. These kids have had high expectations since they were freshmen. They’re great people, and hard workers.”
On Friday, the Tigers didn’t play a flawless game by any means, but they did enough to retain the Battle of the Basin trophy, and laid down a template for how they think they’re going to win games this year.
Defensively, they forced five Quincy turnovers, and completely shut down the Jacks’ vaunted running game; Quincy posted just 3 yards on the ground.
Offensively, they displayed a multi-faceted rushing attack that helped to take pressure off new starting quarterback Evan Brooks. The Tigers ran for 284 yards, including 135 from returning all-leaguer Dalton Balentine and 114 from Tyler Lutz, who scored Ephrata’s last touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 92-yard scamper.
“Our plan was to attack the perimeter and pound the ball inside, then try the play-action pass,” Mills said. “We were able to run the ball in the second half, which helped a lot.”
The game marked Ephrata’s only non-league contest of the year, but since it was a rivalry tilt, the Tigers didn’t have any trouble motivating themselves to play well right from the start.
Next week, the Tigers will enter Central Washington Athletic Conference play with a home game against Ellensburg.
“This was our biggest game of the year,” Laird said. “We had the most fans that we’ll have all year, and the atmosphere was incredible. We were pumped up. It was a fun game to play in.”
The Jackrabbits might have lost the game, but received an incredible performance from new wide receiver Connor Trevino.
Trevino, who recently transferred to Quincy, was unstoppable Friday; he recorded 220 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches. Operating in a new version of Quincy’s triple-option offense (“It’s the same offense, but we’re more balanced,” Quincy coach Stephen Wallace said) clearly seemed to agree with Trevino, and he seems to have forged an instant chemistry with new quarterback Dallas Bassett, despite their relative lack of practice time together.
Trevino’s second touchdown catch in the third quarter was a phenomenal display of athleticism, as he outjumped two Ephrata defenders and twisted his body to come down with the ball in the corner of the end zone.
Later in the game, with the Jackrabbits facing a third-down-and-30 situation, Trevino caught a long pass for a first down to keep the drive alive.
“At his first practice, he picked up the offense right away,” Wallace said. “(Friday) looked like one of our practices. He’s a stud. He’s so athletic, and he’s got great body awareness.”
“That kid,” Mills said, “is going to be a monster. We had guys all over him, and he made a lot of great catches. He’s a great player, and he’s going to have a great season.”
Bassett threw for 296 yards, but was also intercepted four times.
Royal 17, Cascade 14
Royal took the lead with a 22-yard field goal with eight seconds left to beat visiting Cascade.
“A late pass interception gave them life,” Cascade coach Elia Ala’ilima-Daley said. “We had time for a 35-yard pass that we barely got out of bounds, but we didn’t have time to convert.”
The Kodiaks passed for 93 yards with Austin Murdock, who threw for 58 yards and a touchdown; and Dennis Merritt completed a 35-yard pass.
“We learned we can convert on a long third down,” Ala’ilima-Daley said.
Cascade’s Noax Wood rushed for a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Merritt rushed for 68 of Cascade’s 134 rushing yards and scored a touchdown off a 44-yard pass from Murdock in the third quarter.
Okanogan 43, Warden 21
Justin Rivas scored three Okanogan touchdowns in Warden — one rushing, one passing and one interception return.
Bulldogs quarterback Clay Ashworth scored a touchdown on a 30-yard run.
Okanogan led 12-6 at halftime.
“We went down and scored, then we held them, then Rivas intercepted and we scored again,” Okanogan coach Erick Judd said. “By the end of the third we led 38-12.”
Lynden Christian 34, Omak 3
Host Lynden Christian scored its first two touchdowns on big passes in the first half, driving the halftime score to 19-3.
“We felt good at halftime even though we were down,” Omak coach Nick Sackman said. “We did pretty good against their run. They just had two big scores in the first half.”
The first Lynden Christian touchdown came off a 35-yard pass and the second off a 50-yard pass. Two Pioneers fumbles in the second half led to two touchdowns in the first five minutes.
“We had some mistakes,” Sackman said. “They played some defense we haven’t seen before, and we have a young offensive line.”
Oroville 18, Brewster 7
The Bears jumped out to an early lead after a 2-yard touchdown run by Raf Merillis, but the lead was short-lived as Oroville rallied and put up three unanswered scores.
The Hornets rushed for two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 12-7 halftime lead and ran for one more in the fourth quarter.
Brewster’s Hayden Bayha rushed for 74 yards on six carries and Merillis had 12 carries for 34 yards and the team’s only touchdown. The Bears turned the ball over six times in the loss.
“Offensively, we couldn’t really move the ball against the defense,” coach Jake Johanson said. “We weren’t able to pass it. On defense, we weren’t able to get off the field.”
Tonasket 40, Bridgeport 15
Tonasket began its season with a resounding nonleague victory over host Bridgeport.
Entiat 22, Waterville 18
Quarterback Trang Tran led Entiat to a win its road opener.
Pateros 34, Curlew 20
The Billygoats opened the season with a versatile offensive attack and dominated Curlew.
Pateros quarterback Mikey Piechalski hit Carlos Ceinceros for a 16-yard touchdown strike and converted a 2-point conversion play to Lance Evans to give the team an 8-0 lead in the first quarter.
Curlew’s Chance Wheaton rushed for 69 yards to make it an 8-6 affair, but Piechalski completed a 32-yard pass to Evans to make it 14-6.
The Billygoats created separation in the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Piechalski to Evans and a 33-yard run by Piechalski. Their final score came on a 39-yard punt return by Ceinceros.
Piechalski finished the game 203 total yards and four touchdowns.
“(It was a) good first game for us,” coach Bill Haley said. “There’s a lot of stuff we have to figure out. We didn’t run the ball very good, but we passed the ball well.”