CASHMERE — The Cashmere football team hasn’t lost a Caribou Trail League game since 2010. The Bulldogs have certainly been challenged in some rivalry games during that time, however — one play here or one play there, and the Bulldogs could’ve ended the 2011 and 2012 seasons with one league loss each. Two years ago, Cashmere escaped in the final seconds with a one-point victory over a very good Chelan squad in a back-and-forth affair that will be talked about in awe by local football fans for years. Last season, an improved, inspired Cascade squad came within one missed extra point of at least sending its Pear Bowl contest against Cashmere into overtime.
It happened again in Friday’s Bronze Shoe clash. Once again, Cashmere was tested. Once again, the Bulldogs found a way to pass that test, and as a result, their CTL winning streak goes on.
Cashmere rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to post an exhilarating 30-29 victory in a game that in some ways lived up to its predecessor from two years ago.
So how do the Bulldogs (3-1 overall, 3-0 CTL) keep winning their close league contests? On Friday, they emerged victorious because they quite simply didn’t panic and try to change a bunch of things that they were doing just because they found themselves in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind. They had faith that their talent would win out, and that’s exactly what happened.
“We stuck with our system on offense and defense,” said Cashmere coach Phil Zukowski. “We knew it would work.”
“We have a team that’s built on resiliency,” said Bulldogs quarterback/safety Casey Ruether, “and it showed. We stuck together, and believed in each other.”
Cashmere’s resiliency was tested after Chelan, up 13-7 at halftime, took advantage of two Bulldogs fumbles, adding a touchdown and field goal for a 23-7 advantage with 7 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third quarter.
At that point, however, the Bulldogs’ running game began to wear down the Goats’ defense, and Chelan’s offense stalled.
A long Dylan Boyd reception set up a Mason Elliott 8-yard touchdown run to bring the Bulldogs to within 23-15 with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter.
On Cashmere’s next possession, Elliott scored again, this time on a 9-yard run, and Ruether’s two-point conversion run tied the game at 23-23.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs kept their drive alive with key third-down and fourth-down conversions, and Rex Pittsinger scored on a 12-yard run to give Cashmere a 30-23 lead — its first of the contest — with 2:03 remaining.
The Goats (2-2, 0-2) didn’t give up, though. They marched down the field and scored on a Tanner Hendricks 26-yard pass to Mykey Flowers with 27 seconds left, bringing Chelan to within one point.
Instead of kicking the extra point to potentially force overtime, the Goats decided to go for two points and the lead. They came out in an unusual formation — the ‘swinging gate’ — to try to confuse the Bulldogs, but Cashmere was ready for it, and Hendricks’ pass fell to the ground, incomplete.
Chelan coach Travis Domser said that there was no doubt in his mind that he’d call for the two-point conversion again in that situation if he had the chance.
“The kids wanted to do it, and we knew that we were going to go for it,” he said. “On the road, you go for two. We have no regrets. In that situation, it comes down to one play, win or lose, and we’re OK with that. We’re not second-guessing ourselves.”
“I would’ve gone for two as well,” Zukowski said. “Here’s why: We were (having success) running the ball and they weren’t, and in overtime, you’re playing on a short field. I agree with Travis’ call 100 percent.”
Even though Chelan lost the game, Domser was upbeat about the improvements that he saw from his squad. The Goats didn’t play great last week in their loss to Okanogan, but played much better Friday. Hendricks, in particular, showed an ability to connect on pass plays to keep drives alive and score touchdowns.
If Chelan keeps improving, it’s going to be a factor in the playoff race during the second half of the season, no doubt.
“We eliminated a lot of mistakes, and we proved that we can play physical,” Domser said. “(When we had the lead), we feeling good because we were just having fun out there. We stayed the course and played with a very good football team. Cashmere made some good adjustments, and made some big plays, but our kids stuck right in there. That’s the mentality that we need to have. We keep going, no matter what the score.”
Cashmere received a lift with the return of running back/linebacker Rex Pittsinger, who hadn’t played since injuring his elbow in the first quarter of the Bulldogs’ opening-week loss to Cascade Christian.
Pittsinger ran extremely hard, and was physically beat up as a result — he had to exit the game twice in the second half due to cramps — but still managed to run for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Despite the victory, though, Zukowski knows that his team will have to make some improvements to keep its league winning streak going.
“There are so many things we need to work on,” he said. “We need to improve on the mental aspect. If we can do that, we have the ability to be a pretty good team. A lot of it is what we think would be common-sense stuff; I guess we need to be better teachers.”
Okanogan 35, Tonasket 14
First-place Okanogan climbed to 4-0 (2-0 CTL) after its home win against Tonasket.
Morgan Poulin ran 100 yards on 17 carries scoring three touchdowns in the first, and third quarters.
“It was a good hard-hitting game,” Bulldogs coach Erik Judd said. “Tonasket always plays us well. We had a lot of penalties, made a lot of mental mistakes. They just threw our momentum off.”
Quincy 35, Brewster 14
Dallas Bassett scored two of his three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter on 54- and 25-yard runs for host Quincy (1-3, 1-1).
Brewster (2-2, 1-1) led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter. Pedro Rodriguez hit a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the Jackrabbits a 16-14 halftime lead.
Cascade 59, Omak 7
The potent Kodiaks ground attack had another dominant night as Cascade ran for 401 yards against an overmatched Pioneers defense.
Kodiaks running back Dennis Merritt ran for two touchdowns and 157 yards on 13 attempts, Michael Allen had three scores and 98 yards on six carries.
“We got a league win, but a lot of kids got to play, too,” Cascade head coach Elia Ala’ilima-Daley said. “(This was the) first time in my coaching career that we got three (junior varisty) players to score touchdowns (in a varsity game).”
Ala’ilima-Daley credited his stout offensive and defensive lines.
“Elijah Frazier is one of the best defensive ends in the league,” the coach said. “He has a motor that just won’t quit; our other end Nathaniel Merry does, too.”