CHELAN — You’d think that pressure situations wouldn’t affect Justin Rivas too much. After all, he’s sunk free throws in the waning seconds of state basketball games, and made game-winning goals in state soccer contests. Rivas is quite simply one of the most fearless, most competitive athletes in the Caribou Trail League; he’s confident in his abilities, and he absolutely hates to lose.
But before Okanogan’s football game against Chelan on Friday, Rivas was downright flustered. Because the Bulldogs’ all-league starting quarterback, Clay Ashworth, had suffered a hip injury in the team’s win over Connell last week, Rivas, normally a wide receiver, was asked to make his first varsity start behind center against the Goats.
“I was nervous,” Rivas said after the game, a 27-18 Okanogan victory. “I just hoped that I wouldn’t mess up. I hadn’t played quarterback since middle school. I just had to trust the offensive line and work myself into other flow.”
Rivas didn’t turn in a perfect performance Friday, but he was still one of the Bulldogs’ (3-0) best players. He ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns; threw for a third score; and made two critical interceptions from his free safety position.
Before Friday, the senior had already established himself as a versatile player as a running back, wideout, safety and kick returner. Now, he’s able to give Okanogan coach Erick Judd with even more options in case Ashworth is slow to recover from his injury.
“I don’t have a favorite position,” Rivas said. “I just play wherever the coaches tell me to play.”
Wherever he plays on the field, Rivas wants to take advantage of his unique skill set.
He’s not big (5-foot-9, 155 pounds), but he’s strong, and he’s probably the quickest player in the conference, with deceptive speed.
“I just want to use my athletic ability and make plays when I can,” he said.
Rivas scored seven touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season, including a game-clinching score at the end of last week’s win over Connell.
Since Okanogan’s offense calls for a fair amount of running plays from the quarterback, Judd didn’t think it was a stretch to install Rivas behind center in Ashworth’s absence.
“He’s so competitive, and he never gives up,” Judd said of Rivas. “He plays hurt. He’s tough. He hates to lose, and he’s always around the football.”
“We got them where we wanted a few times — third down and long, and Rivas beat us with his feet,” said Chelan (1-2) coach Travis Domser. “He’s a great football player.”
Cashmere 40, Omak 6
Cashmere had a hard time stopping Omak’s ground game, but was still able to secure a win at home against its league foe.
The Pioneers (0-3) piled on 273 yards on the ground, which was a concern for Cashmere coach Phil Zukowski.
“We’re still not hitting on all cylinders yet,” he said. “We still need some work to do. Omak did a great job of running the inside isolation against us…that is definitely something we need to fix.”
But the Bulldogs (2-1) had enough offense of their own to offset that.
Casey Ruether accounted for 202 yards on the ground, Mason Elliott had 57 yards on 10 carries and Oscar Cantu and Jacob James combined for 78 yards.
Cascade 26, Quincy 7
Cascade improved to 3-0 by posting a home victory over visiting Quincy (0-3).
“It was our defensive play and the play of our offensive line,” said Kodiaks coach Elia Ala’ilima-Daley. “I’m proud of the way our defense played and knew their assignments. Last week it was all about Dennis Merrit, but this week I have to give credit to our offensive line. They kept everybody in front of them.”
Brewster 21, Tonasket 7
The Bears (2-1) leaned on their defense and relied on a physical running attack against Tonasket (2-1).
Raf Varelas and Hayden Bayha split the workload and combined for 153 yards on the ground, and Mitch Boesel finished the night 12-for-20 with 178 yards through the air and the defense kept Tonasket to less than 200 yards of total offense.
“Defensively we played a solid game,” coach Jake Johanson said. “Guys flew around, tackled really well tonight. And offensively, we were able to finish drives.”