PASCO -- When the Chiawana football team headed into the Edgar Brown Stadium locker rooms at halftime trailing Newport 7-6 during Saturday's first-round 4A state playoff game, Riverhawks junior Jordan Downing knew it might be time for one of coach Steve Graff's "famous talks".
"We don't like to get them, but it fired us up," Downing said before Chiawana rallied to outscore the Knights 24-3 in the second half to win 30-10.
What was Graff's inspiring theme?
"I talked about it being basketball season Monday," Graff said, sending the not-so-subtle message to his team:
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Do you want to keep playing football, or would you rather play basketball?
Chiawana chose the former.
A good decision, especially considering that the win earns the fifth-ranked Riverhawks (10-0) another home game for the 4A quarterfinals. They'll face third-ranked Ferris (11-0) -- which eliminated Richland 33-17 on Friday -- at 1 p.m. Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium.
"Any time you can play at home there's an advantage. We'll have a good crowd," said Graff, a playoff veteran who guided Pasco to eight state trips and three 4A titles from 1997-2008. But, even despite the 'Hawks' sloppy first-half performance, he's proud to lead the them to state for the first time ever.
"We were sluggish. Guys that usually make plays weren't making plays. That's what makes me go bald and makes me eat too much," Graff joked. "But it's a credit to them that they rebounded. Once (Newport) was out of its comfort zone, we smelled blood and got busy."
Chiawana's defense forced a turnover on Newport's first play from scrimmage in the second half, ripping the ball away from wishbone quarterback Isaac Dotson before linebacker Nick Vincent fell on it at the Knights' 22-yard line.
Four plays later, Downing went up the gut for his second of four touchdowns on the day for a 12-7 Riverhawks lead. Downing, a returning all-CBBN forward in basketball, finished with 187 yards on 32 carries and added a 20-yard reception for good measure.
"I'm glad we got this one out of the way," Downing said. "I don't know if it was jitters in the first half, but we can't come out like that against Ferris."
The two-way player had a strong defensive game as well, knocking down a pass and recording five tackles -- including a bone-jarring fourth-quarter hit in Newport's backfield that forced running back Louie Jachim to leave the game.
Chiawana defensive back C.J. Edrington made perhaps the game's biggest play after the Riverhawks offense went four-and-out to end the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Edrington picked up a fumbled option toss from Dotson to James Dupar at the Knights' 12 and cruised into the end zone for an 18-10 Chiawana lead.
"We had to be disciplined against the wishbone and follow our keys," Edrington said. "I knew I had to go from the quarterback to the pitchman. We had practiced scoop-and-score this week, but the ball took a nice candy hop right to me."
Downing ran for two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make it 30-10, but the defense made several stops down the stretch when Newport twice gambled on fourth down in its own end with its back against the wall.
"We made a bunch of mistakes, but good teams make you make mistakes," said Knights coach Mike Miller, whose five losses this season have all been to ranked teams. "We had to try changing the momentum of the game, so we rolled the dice. Instead, we gave them the ball in the red zone two to three times."
* Jack Millikin: 509-582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiawana 30, Newport 10
Newport 0 7 3 0 -- 10
Chiawana 6 0 6 18 -- 30
C--Jordan Downing 3 run (kick failed)
N--Kevin Martin 12 pass from Isaac Dotson (Cody Joner kick)
C--Downing 2 run (pass failed)
N--FG Joner 25
C--C.J. Edrington 12 fumble return (kick failed)
C--Downing 15 run (kick failed)
C--Downing 9 run (kick blocked)
RUSHING--N, Dotson 20-47, James Dupar 6-(minus 5), Martin 1-1, Tommy Mirante 2-3, Louie Jachim 7-19, Eric Rodam 5-17. C, Downing 32-187, Joseph Zamora 1-2, Andrew Higgins 2-4.
PASSING--N, Dotson 7-16-0-99. C, Lucas Graff 6-8-1-66.
RECEIVING--N, Dupar 1-14, Martin 1-12, Jachim 3-33, Nick Clifford 1-13, Nate Anderson 1-27. C, Downing 1-20, Geramey Duckworth 1-0, Miquiyah Zamora 1-9, Enrique Salas 1-11, Edrington 2-26.
FIRST DOWNS--N 12, C 11. FUMBLES-LOST--N 2-2, C 0-0. PENALTIES-YARDS--N 5-42, C 8-47.