Postseason seeding and a home playoff game on the line, a raucous homecoming crowd to entertain and a heated rival on the other sideline.
The Kennewick Lions picked a perfect game to put forth one of their best efforts.
Grant Woods piled up 162 of Kennewick's 298 yards on the ground, Bryce Leavitt threw for two scores and ran for another, and the Lions' defense turned away two threats in the first half and then turned out the lights in a 35-7 win over the Southridge Suns in a key CBBN 3A contest Friday at Lampson Stadium.
"It was a big game, and we knew we had to step to them," said linebacker Shaun Smith, who turned in three big plays to help deny points to the Suns after they reached the Kennewick 14 and 3.
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The victory locks up the league's No. 2 seed for 10th-ranked Kennewick (7-1, 5-1), which finishes the regular season with Pasco next week and then will entertain the Greater Spokane League's No. 2 seed in the regional playoffs.
The loss for Southridge (5-3, 4-2) sends them to the third seed and on the road for regionals against University. But more than that, it exposed the fact that one of the most gifted teams in the area is not ready to stand up to the most physical teams in the league.
And Kennewick has proven they can punch and take a punch.
Twice the Suns got deep into Kennewick territory, starting with their first drive that started near midfield after forcing the Lions to punt into a stiff wind -- it netted 9 yards.
But after reaching the 23, the drive stalled.
Smith batted down a first-down pass and then dropped Chris Haueter for a 1-yard gain, setting up third-and-long.
Suns QB Matt Mendenhall scrambled for 7 on third down, but his fourth-down run was met by T.J. Fields at the line and stopped short.
"Honestly, other than not scoring, that first drive -- we couldn't have drawn it up any better," said Southridge coach Tony Reiboldt. "We knew this Kennewick team was tough. We knew we were going to need to take some shots."
The second Southridge opportunity came with the Suns trailing 14-0.
Bodie Simpson broke off a nifty 28-yard run, and then Leavitt sailed a perfect fade pass to Brock Schuh for 41 yards on the first play of the second quarter to give Kennewick the two-score lead.
The Suns got good field position again, snuffing out a fake punt at midfield.
This time, Haueter's 17-yard dash and Mendenhall's 20-yard flip to Paul Hamada set Southridge up at the 7.
But Smith crashed into the backfield on the next play, dropping Haueter for a 7-yard loss.
The Suns got back to the 3, but great coverage forced a fourth-down incompletion.
"We had to keep Mendenhall in the pocket. He's a good scrambler, and he makes plays," Smith said. "Defense stepped up right there. And our line stepped up, too."
Indeed, that was about the time Kennewick started hammering away with the ground game, after a series of wide receiver screens to Devven Ramos fueled the Lions early on.
Since their loss to No. 4 Kamiakin, the Lions had rolled up 732 yards in the last three games, with 512 of that going to Woods.
The powerfully compact back did as much damage after contact as before, and the offensive line started taking charge.
It led to Leavitt's 8-yard connection with Ramos right before the half -- a play in which Leavitt had plenty of time to check through all his options before finding Ramos open on the backside.
Troy Fulton trimmed any hopes the Suns had of coming out of the locker room and cutting into the 21-0 lead in the third quarter, intercepting Mendenhall at the Southridge 24.
The field position stayed in Kennewick's favor until Leavitt dived in from 4 yards out a few possessions later.
Woods finally got his score following Mendehall's second interception, a screen pass tipped up by Smith and picked off by Alex Rivera.
Southridge stuff a score in the final 5 minutes, with Hamada breaking free on a 49-yard catch-and-run and completing the drive with a 21-yard TD grab.
He finished with five catches for 114 yards, the bulk of Mendenhall's 156-yard night on 12-for-21 throwing.
But the Suns managed just 206 total yards, and only 50 on the ground.
The Lions piled up 412 total, and averaged nearly 6 yards a carry.
"The kids were focused all week. I'm very proud of them. They played with intensity," said Kennewick coach Bill Templeton. "Southridge had some opportunities in the first half, and our defense responded in the red zone and made the stops they had to."
Kennewick 35, Southridge 7
Southridge 0 0 0 7 — 7
Kennewick 7 14 14 0 — 35
K—Bodie Simpson 28 run (Paul Martinez kick)
K—Brock Schuh 41 pass from Bryce Leavitt (Martinez kick)
K—Devven Ramos 8 pass from Leavitt (Martinez kick)
K—Leavitt 4 run (Martinez kick)
K—Grant Woods 8 run (Martinez kick)
S—Paul Hamada 21 pass from Matt Mendenhall (Conner Mertens kick)
RUSHING—S, Chris Haueter 16-51, Hamada 1-8, Kadin Diaz 1-2, Mendenhall 5-(minus 11). K, Woods 26-162, Ramos 5-34, Jesse Salazar 6-31, Leavitt 7-24, Simpson 1-28, Hunter Scanlon 5-19.
PASSING—S, Mendenhall 12-21-2—156. K, Leavitt 8-11-1—114.
RECEIVING—S, Hamada 5-114, Josh Richards 3-28, Adam Sanders 2-9, Brenden Kelly 1-8, Clay Gonzalez 1-2. K, Ramos 6-62, Schuh 1-41, Simpson 1-11.
FIRST DOWNS—S 10, K 18. FUMBLES-LOST—S 0-0, K 0-0. PENALTIES-YARDS—S 4-45, K 0-0.