PESHASTIN — Offensive lineman don’t get to rack up gaudy individual statistics, like skill players do. Their names don’t fill headlines, and the only time they usually garner attention from casual observers is when they make a mistake, such as commit a penalty or allow a sack.
But all of that is OK with Derek Crites and the rest of Cascade’s linemen. They know that they have to play well in order for the Kodiaks to win, and they also know if they can get running back Dennis Merritt past the opposing defense’s front seven, most likely he’s not going to be caught.
And for them, that’s a fantastic feeling.
“It’s amazing (to see Dennis break a long run),” Crites said after Cascade’s 39-21 Friday win over Cle Elum-Roslyn at the Peshastin Dryden Sports Complex. “Honestly, that how Dennis how shows us his love. The girls in the stands may be screaming his name, but I don’t care. (Watching him run) is all of the payment I need.”
After recording only 68 rushing yards in the Kodiaks’ loss to Royal last week, Merritt dominated against the Warriors, racking up 295 on 20 carries yards and four touchdowns.
He scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter; another 5-yarder in the second quarter; a 24-yard scamper in the third quarter; and a sublime 52-yard run in the fourth quarter to finish Cascade’s scoring.
“With his combination of speed and vision, he has the potential to have some special nights,” said Cascade coach Elia Ala’ilima-Daley. “Tonight was one of those nights.”
“Against Royal, I think he was a little nervous,” Crites said. “This game, I was like, ‘Yes, those are the runs that I know.’ ”
The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Crites leads a veteran offensive line that plays a critical part in the Kodiaks’ wing-T offense.
On Friday, Cascade’s line was able to consistently open holes against a smaller Warriors front seven.
“We played very well,” Crites said. “We made some mistakes, but none that can’t be fixed. We just have to stick together and do our jobs, and not worry about everybody else. We have to trust the running backs to run their hearts out.”
“The offensive line did a good job of adjusting,” Ala’ilima-Daley said. “We were preparing for Cle Elum to come out in a four-man front, and instead they came out in a five-man front. But some of the prep work that we did in our summer camp helped with the adjustments. The biggest thing is that they were able to stay on their blocks, and they have a good relationship with Dennis.”
Defensively, Cascade’s strength Friday was its ability to get to Warriors quarterback Brennan Burchak; the Kodiaks recorded seven sacks.
Cascade usually employs a 4-3 front, but the coaching staff decided to add a ‘50’ package this season to take advantage of the Kodiaks’ depth on the defensive line.
“We were quick off the snap,” Ala’ilima-Daley. “Tonight we had a lot of energy. We were able to rotate through a lot of defensive tackles, and we kept up the pressure all night.”
“We have a lot of big defensive tackles,” said Crites, also a defensive lineman. “We’re able to switch off with quick tackles and ends, so that when (an opponent) gets used to (defending) me, we’ll slide in a guy like Elijah Frazier (5-6, 160-pounds), and they won’t be used to his speed, and they’ll get tired out. It’s a mental thing for them to deal with. We just have to keep hitting (the opposition), and they’ll get discouraged. We have speed and size.”
One are of concern for Ala’ilima-Daley and the Kodiaks is their ability to stop opposing quarterbacks from running. Burchak was the Warriors’ only consistent offensive threat Friday; he ran for 21 times for 153 yards, including touchdowns of 23, 34 and 25 yards.
The Kodiaks will be facing several rushing threats from the quarterback position in league play, so it will be crucial to the Kodiaks’ league title hopes to improve in that area in the coming weeks.
“We talked about that after the game,” Ala’ilima-Daley said. “Obviously (Cashmere quarterback Casey) Ruether can run the ball. I hear that Quincy’s quarterback (Dallas Bassett) is pretty athletic. (Okanogan quarterback) Clay Ashworth… We need to shore that up. (Burchak’s effort) was one of the best individual efforts that I’ve seen in while. He didn’t have a lot of help, and he made some outstanding plays.”
Cashmere 55, Goldendale 12
Cashmere rebounded from an opening-week loss by pounding visiting Goldendale.
The Bulldogs outgained the Timberwolves 301-52 on the ground while forcing six turnovers.
“It was another slow start, we need to rectify that. Once we got started, things went pretty well,” Cashmere coach Phil Zukowski said. “I thought (quarterback) Casey (Ruether) did a great job running the option.”
Oscar Cantu filled in ably for the injured Rex Pittsinger. Cantu had 123 yards on the ground.
“That’s not bad for a fullback,” Zukowski said.
Goldendale would’ve been held to just one score if it wasn’t for a kickoff return that was taken to the house in the final seconds.
“We have things that we need to fix, and once we get those fixed I think we can be a very good football team, but we still have a ways to go. We can’t give up a 90 yard kick return, that’s unacceptable,” Zukowski said. “Little things make a good football team, and we need to get better at the little things.”
Royal 17, Quincy 13
Quincy had multiple opportunities to score, but only took advantage of two of them, and lost a close non-league loss to visiting Royal.
“In the first quarter we drove the ball inside their 20 and only score once. We had another chance right before halftime and didn’t get any points on that. We had another chance in the third quarter and didn’t get any points,” said Quincy coach Stephen Wallace. “We just need to eliminate drive killers. We had a couple of turnovers and penalties, and we’re not putting the points on the board right now. We’re killing ourselves.”
Quarterback Dallas Bassett led Quincy with 91 rushing yards, while Connor Trevino had four catches for 81 yards.
Okanogan 19, Connell 6
The visiting Bulldogs came out on top of a dogfight that could have gone either way.
The score was knotted at 0-0 going into the fourth quarter when Clay Ashworth hit Justin Rivas for a 15-yard touchdown strike to put the team up 7-0.
Connell responded with a 10-yard run, but failed to convert the two-point conversion.
With time running out, Rivas scored on a 10-yard run to put his team up 13-6 after a missed extra point. Rivas iced the game with a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired.
“Both teams played hard, it was great game to watch,” Okanogan coach Erick Judd said. “Rivas had a great game again this week. He had some great moves on that touchdown catch. It was 15 yards, but it seems like he put four different moves on.”
Okanogan is 2-0 after the victory.
Cheney 42, Omak 6
Omak fell behind early at Pioneer Field against Cheney and couldn’t catch up to the perennial state qualifier.
Omak head coach Nick Sackman said that despite the final score, his team played a lot better than last week.
“We gave up some big plays early. They had a big run and then we fumbled a kickoff,” he said. “Finally we settled down and played some real good defense and held them scoreless the next 19 minutes.”
The Pioneers turned the ball over five times, including three fumbles. But Sackman did say he was encouraged by how his defense played after the first quarter.
“I thought we tackled pretty well for the most part, especially in the trenches,” Sackman said. “We just put the ball on the ground too many times.”
Brewster 52, Manson 0
The host Bears got off to a quick start, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal to take a 24-0 lead into the second quarter.
Brewster built on that lead, scoring four more times over the course of the second and third quarter.
Quarterback Mitch Boesel finished the night 11-of-14 with five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Cameron Jacobsen had four receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears are now 1-1 on the season.
“Defensively we played very well,” coach Jake Johanson said. “We tackled a lot better than last week and offensively we were able to run the ball effectively between the tackles.”
Chelan 42, Naches Valley 9
Chelan relied on a heavy rushing attack to plow through host Naches Valley.
Kai Clausen, who finished the contest with 110 yards on the ground, put the Goats ahead early with 6- and 7-yard scores in the first quarter. An interception return for a touchdown by Mykey Flowers gave Chelan a 21-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Konnar Stevens scored on a 30-yard run in the third quarter, and Clausen ran found the end zone two more times to complete the rout.
The Goats are 1-1 after the win.
“The offensive line did a really great job tonight,” Chelan coach Travis Domser said. ”Clausen really ran hard and made good cuts… We executed a lot better tonight.”