CASHMERE — There’s no other way to say it, these past two weeks have been agonizing for the Cashmere Bulldogs.

Following last week’s deflating loss to Cascade on the final drive of the game, the Bulldogs were handed another last-second defeat Friday, falling 45-42 to the Omak Pioneers on Senior Night.

This is going to be a tough one to swallow. The Bulldogs led for three quarters, forced six turnovers — including four picks — returned a kickoff for a touchdown and benefitted from two special teams blunders in the first half. Amazingly, Omak overcame all of that.

The Pioneers erased a 14-deficit in the second half and won off a 30-yard field goal with 18 seconds left.

“I’m proud of the kids for how they battled,” Cashmere head coach Bryan Bremer said after the loss. “We had some balls bounce our way in the first half, we just didn’t capitalize in the second half offensively. And that’s on me as the play-caller, I let the team down.”

The first half was wild — just one crazy play after another. To say there was no defense would discredit the three fumbles and two picks, but it’s also not completely inaccurate. At half, the score was 34-28 Cashmere.

Omak scored on the opening possession of the game in just four plays after Kessler Fjellman, who finished with five TDs, punched in a 1-yard score. Fjellman set up the score with a 49-yard catch and run on the second play of the game. Cashmere responded on its ensuing drive, with Henry Varrelman taking a slotback toss 68 yards to the house on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage.

Cashmere then recovered a fumble on Omak’s next drive and Luke Jacobson pounded in a 4-yard TD to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead. Fjellman evened the tally on Omak’s next drive, punching in his second rushing touchdown of the game. But the Bulldogs retook the lead on a Cole Scott touchdown run, set up by a botched Omak punt that caromed off two Pioneers and was spotted at their own 20-yard line.

It got even weirder following the Bulldogs touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Cashmere’s kicker slipped and kicked a dribbler that rolled 25 yards (end-over-end) and hit an Omak player square in the facemask before a host of Bulldogs fell on it.

That was just the first quarter.

Cashmere’s Trenton Mason opened the second quarter with a pick after he underthrew his receiver on a deep ball down the sideline. But the Bulldogs defense bailed him out and forced a turnover on downs, which resulted in another Jacobson rushing TD.

But just as Cashmere had seized momentum, Omak got back in it. Beau Sackman found Fjellman open down the seam for a 64-yard touchdown pass, which pulled Omak within five points. The Pioneers then took the lead after blocking a Bulldogs punt and returning it for a score. Just like that, a 14-point swing.

Cashmere, of course, answered with a quick strike of its own, scoring on a 74-yard touchdown pass from Mason to Mac Kelly on a deep cross.

The first half was a track meet, but the pace slowed over the final two quarters.

Cashmere’s Jack Croci, who had a helluva game with three INTs and several touchdown-saving tackles, returned the second-half kickoff 78-yards for a touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 42-28. But that was their final score of the game. Omak held Cashmere scoreless the rest of the way and slowly chipped away.

Fjellman scored both of Omak’s final two TDs to tie up the game and the Pioneers sealed the win with a pick in the closing seconds.

“I know it looks bad when you give up 45 points defensively, but I thought at times we played well,” Bremer said. “We forced a lot of takeaways and put them in situations we wanted. I’m not going to lie, (this one) is hard. I’m letting the team down by not getting these last-minute wins and I’m going to do some soul searching.”

The Bulldogs are going to need to have short-term memory because next week is the big one. Cashmere has won its last six meetings with Chelan and Bremer is 3-0 in Bronze Shoe games thus far but he also knows that means very little come Friday night.

“You can throw all the records out for next week’s game,” he said. “This one will hurt a little but I look forward to attack Chelan next week. I know they have a good team, they always do.”

Kickoff next week in Chelan is at 7 p.m.

Sports Reporter

Zach Johnson is a 28-year-old sportswriter from Lakewood, Colorado. When he's not covering local sporting events you can find him carding birdies at many of the state's public golf courses, biking the Apple Capital Loop Trail, or skiing Mission Ridge.

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