Football: Liberty Christian, Touchet a big game for small schools

September 25, 2013 

The Liberty Christian Patriots are picking up right where they left off in 2012 — winning every game in sight and doing so in dominating fashion.

In their first two games, the defending Class 1B state champions have outscored Cove, Ore., and Almira/Coulee-Hartline 122-8.

Coach Mike Olson is sure the next game won’t be such a cakewalk. The No. 2 Patriots will host the No. 3 Touchet Indians at 7 p.m. Friday at Hanford High School in a contest that could come down to who has the ball last.

“We were a little too tough for them last year because we had more speed, but that all could have evened out this year,” Olson said. “They have a really good quarterback (senior Elias Martinez) who is going to be a problem for us. We’re going to have to take care of him.”

Martinez was under center when Touchet lost to Cusick in the 1B quarterfinals last season. According to his coach, he still feels the sting of throwing a last-minute interception on a potential game-winning drive against a heavy favorite.

“He still feels a strong desire to prove that was less of a fluke than people thought,” Touchet coach Gary Dorman said. “We were 60-point underdogs going into that game. We could have won very easily.”

The Indians have won their first three games — maybe not quite as easily as LC, but Dorman feels his team is better off for the challenges it has faced.

“We went up to Rosalia last weekend. They were undefeated, and we heard they were thinking they might make a deep run into the playoffs, too,” Dorman said of Touchet’s 54-14 road win — the second of four road games in a row. “That was really a benchmark game for us so far. It was nice to go up there and play as well as we did.”

Dorman said the road games aren’t a big issue. (“What it says is I need to do a better job of talking to my athletic director,” he joked.) In fact, his team likes the chance to play under the Friday night lights.

“We play afternoon games at Touchet, so when the kids go to a place that has lights, they really respond to the night. It’s a lot more fun to them to do that,” Dorman said. “But good players play good no matter where they’re at. It doesn’t matter if they’re home or away.”

The Indians will certainly face a good player in Liberty Christian running back John Lesser, who has racked up 377 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in just two games. Those numbers are almost enough to make fans forget about Tyler Morris, the graduated first-team all-state selection who guided the Pats to their first state title.

“John is fast and strong with good football smarts,” Olson said of Lesser, who scored the game-winning TD as a freshman on the final play of the state title game last season. “He’s one of those kids you can count on to make few mistakes.”

• The River View Panthers are coming off the most successful football season in program history. They set the bar high in reaching the Class 1A semifinals and have no plans to take their foot off the gas.

“We graduated 16 seniors last year. We knew we were losing a good group there, so we knew we had some work to do in the offseason,” Panthers coach Brett Jay said. “It was about getting the returning players to buy in, and we got that commitment.”

River View (3-0), ranked No. 5 in the latest Class 1A poll, has outscored teams 155-32 through the first three games. The offense has rolled thanks to a strong ground game led by Alonzo Mendoza, who has 398 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Panthers quarterback Ruvim Tyutyunnik has continued to lead under center, throwing for 330 yards and six TDs in two games. When he sat out River View’s 49-13 Week 2 win over La Salle with a slight concussion, Terran Brown stepped in at quarterback and delivered a solid effort, throwing for 122 yards and two scores.

“Our goal was not to skip a beat,” Jay said. “He seemed as calm as any quarterback I’ve coached. He was just making sure our team took the next step.”

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