A wise man once said that the waiting is the hardest part. That probably made Friday night’s game really tough for the Kamiakin High School football team.
A year removed from the Braves’ disheartening, 35-13 loss to the Chiawana Riverhawks in Week 3 of the 2016 season — which eventually gave way to Kamiakin’s run to its first state title in school history — they finally exacted their revenge with a 26-20 victory on Friday at Lampson Stadium.
And they only needed a full 48-minute game, plus two overtime periods, to finally put the Riverhawks away.
“It’s a really big win,” Kamiakin senior wide receiver/defensive back Champ Grayson said. “Last year, they out-worked us, out-hustled us, out-hearted us and everything. And we came back and out-hearted them this year. It was great to see that.”
Grayson was the hero, as his second touchdown grab of the night was a 27-yarder that eventually served as the game-winner, and Jaxson Nichols, who didn’t play football last year so he could focus on his basketball game, made the game-sealing pass breakup.
“It was a lot of pressure, but everybody on the team needs to step up when they have to,” said Nichols, a junior. “And with a lot of support from my teammates, (Colten) Chelin and Champ telling me where to go, navigating me out there on defense ... I wouldn’t have been able to make that play without my coaches and my teammates.”
Benson Smith helped sustain the Kamiakin offense throughout, catching nine passes for a game-high 134 yards with two touchdowns. He also recovered a Chiawana fumble on the opening drive of overtime.
Chiawana (2-1, 0-1 MCC) came into the game leading the league in rushing offense, at 224.5 yards per game, but didn’t really get anything going on the ground until the second half. Instead, the Riverhawks relied on first-year quarterback Enoch Vargas to, rather effectively, move the ball down the field.
Finding seven different receivers throughout the night, the senior QB hit on 20 of his 31 passes for 215 yards, and connected with Daylen Storaci — who caught 11 balls for 119 yards —on a 28-yard scoring pass before halftime.
“He did a pretty good job tonight,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said of Vargas. “There were some times that he held on to the ball a little bit too long, but for the most part he did his job.”
Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said that even with the Riverhawks’ smash-mouth reputation, he was prepared to face a variety of schemes. But the Braves’ defense was still taken aback a bit by just how often Vargas was letting it fly.
“We didn’t plan for that, we planned for the big boys to take it to us on the run,” Nichols said. “We had to step up on the D-Line, which we did, but also for the defensive backs, we adjusted really well, and so did the coaches.”
As Chiawana’s offensive line eventually settled into a groove, the run game picked up in the second half as Tayden Jenkins cobbled together a 116-yard performance with two touchdowns on 17 carries.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Graff said. “Not at the start of the game, it took a little while, but we got it going in the second half.
“I think we’ll be alright.”
Chiawana never led, but showed tremendous bounce-back ability, quickly answering each of the Braves’ three touchdowns in regulation to never trail by more than seven points. The final Chiawana touchdown, a 12-yard run by Jenkins — his second rushing TD of the day — tied the game at 20-all with 9 minutes to play and eventually sent the game to overtime.
The first OT period went quickly, with Grayson recovering a fumble by Storaci to put an end to Chiawana’s opening drive after just two plays. Kamiakin’s possession was even shorter, as, on the first snap, Payton Flynn threw his fifth interception of the game to Jose Cruz, for his second pick of the night.
Kamiakin didn’t look like it was going to do anything better in the second OT period, as its first three plays netted negative-2 yards. But on fourth-and-12, Flynn heaved a pass high to the right pylon, and Grayson went up to make a catch and scoot into the end zone to give the Braves a 26-20 lead, after Kaden Shymanski’s extra point was no good.
This time, Chiawana had no answer on offense, as it couldn’t move ahead on its first three snaps. Then Vargas had his fourth-down pass, intended for Josiah Richardson, knocked away by Nichols.
“That was two good teams battling,” Biglin said. “It was kind of like last year, when we lost to Richland in overtime, it was like, okay, we’re here, both teams played good games, and no matter what happens, you’re feeling good about yourselves because it was a good game.
“Fortunately we were on the winning end of it.”
Despite the interceptions and a 1-for-11 stretch in the middle of the game, Kamiakin’s first-year senior quarterback Flynn still managed to put together some nice numbers overall, throwing for 252 yards and having a hand in all four of the Braves’ touchdowns.
Both teams’ underclassmen sensations were at it once again. Sophomore Riley Cissne, who intercepted passes in each of the Riverhawks’ first two games — including a game-sealing pick-six against West Valley — picked off Flynn three times in this one, twice in the first half.
On the other side, freshman Tuna Altahir — who scored touchdowns in each of the Braves’ first two games — ripped off a 36-yard rush in the second quarter that set up Kamiakin’s second touchdown of the game, on an 11-yard pitch-and-catch from Flynn to Smith.
Both schools showed their support for Freeman High School in the wake of Thursday’s shooting with signs and sky blue t-shirts bearing the words “Freeman Strong.”
The Scotties beat Medical Lake 49-0 on Friday night at their home field in Rockford.
Kamiakin: goes on the road to play Pasco, which is on an 18-game losing streak.
Chiawana: Plays Hanford at Fran Rish. The Riverhawks beat the Falcons 49-14 in Pasco last year.
K—Champ Grayson 16 pass from Payton Flynn (Kaden Shymanski kick)
C—Tayden Jenkins 18 run (Ryan Lowry kick)
K—Benson Smith 11 pass from Flynn (kick blocked)
C—Daylen Storaci 28 pass from Enoch Vargas (kick blocked)
K—Smith 65 pass from Flynn (Shymanski kick)
C—Jenkins 12 run (Lowry kick)
K—Grayson 27 pass from Flynn (kick failed)
RUSHING — C, Jenkins 17-116; Ethan Garcia 12-31; Vargas 7-(minus-8); Elijah Perez 1-18. K, Talmage Jacobson 18-67; Tuna Altahir 4-30; Flynn 1-(minus-1); team 1-(minus-2).
PASSING — C, Vargas 20-31-0—215. K, Flynn 20-44-5—252.
RECEIVING — C, Storaci 11-119; Hunter Harris 1-8; Josiah Richardson 5-58; Anthony Carr 1-17; AJ Vongphachanh 2-13; Riley Cissne 1-(minus 3); Gabe Schilz 1-8. K, Smith 9-134; Grayson 4-61; Jacobson 1-5; Colten Chelin 7-52.