What does a playoff team look like in late October?
It's a team that can win with it's second-string quarterback behind center. It's the team that can climb out of a 13-0 deficit on the road.
Mostly, it's team that wins when it has to.
On Friday night, that team was the Eisenhower Cadets, who came into Fran Rish Stadium looking for a victory to secure the No. 2 seed to the Eastern Regional playoffs the first week of November. They did just that, beating Richland 40-31 in an emotional performance that showed why Ike is the most explosive offensive team in the CBBN 4A.
Meanwhile, Bombers coach Mike Neidhold stood quietly amid a dead silent Richland locker room. He was locked up with anger and frustration after watching a game he felt could have been put away early.
He got a look at a team that perhaps wasn't ready for the playoffs, one that was still struggling to overcome costly mistakes. Those mistakes ended up costing Richland dearly on Friday.
"We had about five tries inside the 20 and we didn't get it done. We had another chance to make an interception and didn't come up with it. The object of the game is to score touchdowns, not kick field goals," said Neidhold, who thought he needed a win to keep his playoff hopes alive.
As it turned out, he got a helping hand from Wenatchee, which went into Zaepfel Stadium in Yakima and beat Davis. That kept the Bombers at least in the playoff race.
"I just talked to (Chiawana coach) Steve Graff. They knew I was in a state of disrepair, but they told me if they beat Wenatchee and we beat Moses Lake next week, we've still got a pulse."
Richland started fairly strong, jumping out to a 13-0 lead after a 6-yard touchdown on its first drive by Cameron Simpson and a pair of field goals by Q Taychack.
But the Cadets charged back despite not having their starting quarterback and CBBN passing leader Kolney Cassel, who sat out with a concussion. But his replacement, Jason Easter, was magnificent. The 6-foot-1 senior completed 20 of 32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
Ike's offense showed a lot of faith in Easter, who missed on three of his first four attempts before finding a rhythm in the second quarter.
"We had to (have faith). (Richland) was on a roll," said Cadets coach Dan Eyman. "But Trevon (Harris) broke off a couple of 20-yard runs. He wasn't going to be denied."
Ike first got on the board with a 65-yard halfback option pass from Ridge Harmon to Denzel Jones down the left sideline late in the first quarter. Harris then tied the score at 13 with a 10-yard touchdown run on the Cadets' next drive.
Eisenhower pulled ahead for the first time, 27-23, after Harris capped a 12-play 86-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
On the Cadets next drive, however, Easter underthrew Darius Pati on the right sideline, and Deric Samples was in perfect position for the interception with nothing but green grass in front of him.
But Samples, dropped the ball, leaving another Bombers' opportunity on the table.
"They never really stopped us. We stopped ourselves," Neidhold said.
Jones, who finished with 160 yards on 10 catches, hauled in two more touchdown passes to make it 34-23 with 11:07 left in the third quarter.
But Richland wasn't done. Zack Whitby led a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 52-yard bomb to Connor Egbert down the left sideline that put the Bombers in position to score. B.K. Robinson capped the drive with a 2-yard run that made it 34-31.
Richland tried on onside kick, as Taychack lined the ball off an Ike front-line player but couldn't make the recovery.
Harris scored another rushing TD to make it 40-31, and then Jones intercepted Whitby's final pass -- a bomb intended for Egbert down the right sideline -- to secure the win.
"I definitely know we played with heart. We fought hard," said Bombers linebacker Sawyer Powell.
Eisenhower 40, Richland 31
Eisenhower 7 13 7 13 — 40
Richland 13 10 0 8 — 31
R—Cameron Simpson 6 run (Q Taychack kick)
R—FG Taychack 24
R—FG Taychack 33
E—Denzel Jones 65 pass from Ridge Harmon (Anthony Prieto kick)
E—Trevon Harris 10 run (kick blocked)
R—Ellijah Gardaya 9 pass from Zack Whitby (kick failed)
R—FG Taychack 35
E—Jones 8 pass from Jason Easter (Prieto kick)
E—Harris 3 run (Prieto kick)
E—Jones 8 pass from Easter (Prieto kick)
R—B.K. Robinson 2 run (Gardaya pass from Whitby)
E—Harris 1 run (kick failed)
RUSHING—E, Harris 25-153, Jones 2-12, Easter 3-8. R, Robinson 19-171, Simpson 4-11, Mason Baird 2-0, Whitby 1-5, Gibson McGeorge 2-8.
PASSING—E, Easter 20-32-0-233, Harmon 1-1-0-65. R, Whitby 23-34-1-204.
RECEIVING—E, Jones 1-160, Taran Hernandez 2-15, Harris 2-9, Harmon 4-61, Darius Pati 5-58. R, Connor Egbert 3-37, Jarett Wolf 1-5, Sheldon Liikala 2-18, Simpson 1-(minus 1), Gardaya 8-45, Deric Samples 2-0, Colter Quick 5-48.
FIRST DOWNS—E, 19. R 17. FUMBLES-LOST—E, 1-0. R 1-1. PENALTIES-YARDS—E , 7-45. R 7-50.