Every time things started to look up for the Chiawana High School football team on Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium, a bad break squashed its momentum.
The Riverhawks never led in a 38-28 loss to Skyview in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The Riverhawks (9-2) gave up 143 yards on 17 penalties, and the Storm’s last two touchdowns came on drives that were extended by personal fouls. The late scores halted a Chiawana comeback after it trailed 13-0 out of the gate and 21-7 at halftime.
“I think it’s sad that the kids didn’t get to decide the game. The officials made all the calls that decided it,” said Chiawana coach Steve Graff, who disagreed with both the roughing the passer and roughing the kicker penalties that allowed Skyview (8-3) to score in the second half.
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While the sheer volume of penalties — and the poor timing of some of them — certainly didn’t help the Riverhawks’ chances, Graff said the team’s sloppy play in the first half took the game’s fate out of their hands.
“They out-athleted us on those first two drives. They got two quick touchdowns, and we couldn’t slow them down,” Graff said. “We came back and played well in the second half, well enough to get a win, but it just didn’t happen.”
Going up against a Skyview defensive front that was led by 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle Chyrius Duckett, Chiawana senior running back Andrew Vargas carried the ball 18 times in the first half for 90 yards — he averaged 9 yards per carry entering the game.
“Their D-line, they just kept getting through gaps, and it was tough for me to see what gap they were coming through and adjust,” said Vargas, who finished with 245 yards and three touchdowns after a much more efficient second half. “We started off slow, but we kept going as the game went on.
“They started getting tired, and we took advantage, opening up holes, and I found the right hole to run through.”
Following first-quarter touchdowns by Skyview quarterback Brody Barnum (4-yard run) and wide out Cole Grossman (17-yard pass from Barnum), Vargas scored Chiawana’s first touchdown from 4 yards out early in the second quarter to cut the Storm’s lead to 13-7. The touchdown was set up by Skyview’s punter fumbling a snap on his own 3.
Skyview tailback Hayden Froeber scampered in for a 15-yard score 4 minutes before halftime to restore the Storm’s two-touchdown lead heading into the locker room.
Vargas scored on runs of 3 and 4 yards on Chiawana’s first two drives of the second half, and Hayden Carrasco intercepted Barnum on Skyview’s first drive to tie the game at 21.
On the drive following Vargas’ second touchdown of the half, the Riverhawks held Skyview to a three-and-out, but the officials flagged Chiawana for roughing Barnum on his incomplete pass on third down. A couple plays later, Barnum hit Jeremiah Wright for a 45-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-21 Skyview.
Chiawana senior fullback Caleb Weber rumbled for a 13-yard touchdown run on the following drive — with a facemask penalty against Skyview helping the Riverhawks drive 85 yards — which tied it back up at 28 at the end of the third quarter. Skyview responded by driving down the field only to get stopped at the Chiawana 10-yard line, and the hometown fans rejoiced after kicker Travis Yajko pushed his 27-yard field goal attempt wide right.
But sure enough, the yellow flag came flying in around Yajko’s feet as he laid on the ground — roughing the kicker. Shortly after, Dy’von Green rushed in from 4 yards out for the eventual game-winning score, putting the Storm up 35-28 with 8 minutes to go.
“It’s apparent that we rallied back, and we had chances to take the lead, but some flags got thrown that just happened to not go our way,” said Weber, who is also the Riverhawks’ middle linebacker. “I don’t think that determines how good a team is. I’m not exactly sure that the better team won today.”
Yajko hit a 27-yard field goal with 1:42 left, and Austin Nolan intercepted Chiawana quarterback Troy Simpkins on the Riverhawks’ final drive to seal it.
While the loss was hard to swallow for the Chiawana seniors, Vargas was happy his team went down fighting.
“I’m proud of this team. I wouldn’t play with any other team,” he said. “I just love these guys.”
Vargas’ 2,783 yards this season were the third most in state history. Former Riverhawk Austin Urlacher is second on that list with 2,877.
Skyview will face either Bellarmine Prep or Lake Stevens next week.
S — Brody Barnum 4 run (kick failed)
S — Cole Grossman 27 pass from Barnum (Wyatt Stallman kick)
C — Andrew Vargas 3 run (Ryan Lowry kick)
S — Hayden Froeber 15 run (Barnum run)
C — Vargas 4 run (Lowry kick)
C — Vargas 3 run (Lowry kick)
S — Jeremiah Wright 45 pass from Barnum (Stallman kick)
C — Caleb Weber 13 run (Lowry kick)
S — Dy’von Green 3 run (Stallman kick)
S — FG Travis Yajko 27
RUSHING — S, Dy’von Green 10-160; Froeber 8-75; Luke Kizer 1-27; Barnum 15-19; Angelo Sarchi 1-18. C, Vargas 41-245; Troy Simpkins 7-20; Weber 1-13.
PASSING — S, Barnum 13-22-1-150. C, Troy Simpkins 10-18-1-90.
RECEIVING — S, Jeremiah Wright 3-65; Tavis Pinkney 3-27; Grossman 1-27; Froeber 3-25; Jayden Chatman 1-9; Travis Yajko 1-6; Nick Stewart 1-(minus 9). C, Trent Simpkins 6-34; Brayde Hiria 1-24; Josiah Richardson 1-21; Weber 1-8; Braden Childs 1-3.