There was never a Plan B at Touchet. Not because head coach Gary Dorman was unprepared or lacked imagination. There just wasn’t anyone else on the 26-man roster who could carry the passing load at quarterback when starter Carlos Rincon was lost to a season-ending arm injury in Week 3.
And Dorman accepted that, in part because he knew junior Andrew Flagstead would be a competent caretaker and in even larger part because his Plan A revolved around one of the best Class 1B running backs in the land.
But Dorman also harbored a lingering suspicion that a one-dimensional offense, even as potent as senior running back Colter McKeown made it, might eventually cost Touchet.
Cusick came to collect the bill on Saturday. Its 34-28 victory in a 1A state first round playoff game ended the Indians’ season.
“I knew that at some point in time, it would raise its ugly head,” Dorman said of the Indians’ lack of a consistent passing game.
Touchet’s steadfast commitment to run, run, run wasn’t necessarily fatal against the vastly more versatile Panthers, but it magnified a series of uncharacteristic turnovers and forced the Indians to play catch-up all day.
Touchet’s three lost fumbles, an interception and a catastrophic roughing-the-kicker penalty on a missed Panthers field goal attempt also made McKeown’s final high school performance even more astounding. With Cusick merely the latest opponent fixing eight defenders’ stares on McKeown every snap, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior carried the ball 27 times for 198 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 6 of 10 passes — often as a halffback — for 132 yards and two scores.
“He’s the best running back in the state of Washington,” said Touchet senior lineman Tim Weber. “Anyone tries to argue, they haven’t watched Colter enough.”
“The true testament to that kid’s running ability is that there wasn’t one run tonight where he didn’t get hit,” Dorman added. “He’s fun to watch. He never quits.”
Three other Touchet ballcarriers combined for 33 yards rushing on 20 carries. Flagstead added an 11-yard touchdown pass to Leo Garcia on 4th-and-8 with 5:28 left in the game to pull Touchet within a score, 28-20.
But McKeown did the rest of the work. He had 330 of the Indians’ 374 yards on offense.
“Can’t fault him,” Dorman said. “Against Liberty Christian, it was the same thing. They didn’t have to worry about the pass.”
Cusick, meanwhile, flexed an arsenal. Quarterback Spirit White was 9-of-17 passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and had 10 carries. Tyson Shanholtzer, the quarterback during Cusick’s run to the 2013 state quarterfinals, rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Chad Browneagle had four catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Alec Bluff had four catches for 63 yards and rushed nine times for 29 yards and a touchdown.
“It takes four quarters to beat Touchet, and we were four-quarter ready today,” said Panthers head coach Sonny Finley. “The biggest key for us is not to get predictable. We switch things up every week.”
Touchet took its only lead at 6-0 when McKeown slashed off-tackle, nearly fumbled, then spun off of a hit and raced 74 yards to the end zone at the midpoint of the second quarter. It was 7-6 at halftime following Bluff’s two-yard scoring run on fourth-and-goal — and Mathias Loft’s ensuing point-after kick.
Browneagle got wide open behind the Touchet secondary to haul in White’s 33-yard touchdown pass on Cusick’s first snap of the second half, and the Panthers intercepted Touchet on its ensuing possession. The Indians appeared to be on the verge of surviving the gaffe and reclaiming momentum when Loft’s 40-yard field goal attempt fell short.
But the Indians were flagged for roughing the kicker, and Shanholter capped the rejuvenated drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
The foes swapped passing touchdowns — McKeown to Mikael Butler from 66 yards out, Browneagle taking a shovel pass from White 35 yards to the house. Then came Flagstead’s clutch toss to Garcia and Cusick’s stark answer, a 51-yard drive featuring one fourth-down conversion and culminating in Shanholtzer’s 17-yard scoring run.
“They played a hell of a game. We played a hell of a game. The chips fell how they fell,” Weber said. “From freshmen to seniors, we played our hearts out.”
T—Colter McKeown 74 run (pass failed)
C—Alec Bluff 2 run (Mathias Loft kick)
C—Chad Browneagle 33 pass from Spirit White (pass failed)
C—Tyson Shanholtzer 3 run (Browneagle pass from Shanholtzer)
T—Mikael Butler 66 pass from McKeown (Andrew Flagstead run)
C—Browneagle 35 pass from White (Loft kick)
T—Leo Garcia 11 pass from Flagstead (run failed)
C—Shanholtzer 17 run (pass failed)
T—M. Butler 11 pass from McKeown (Lot Butler pass from McKeown)
RUSHING—C, Bluff 9-29, White 10-39, Browneagle 3-6, Shanholtzer 14-99, Eli Peterson 1-(minus 2). T, McKeown 27-198, James Kates 7-3, Garcia 9-36, Flagstead 4-(minus 6).
PASSING—C, White 9-17-0-181. T, McKeown 6-10-0-132, Flagstead 1-2-1-11.
RECEIVING—C, Bluff 4-63, Browneagle 4-116, Marcus Sheridan 1-2. T, Garcia 1-(minus 2), M. Butler 3-86, L. Butler 2-48.
Thomas Neimeyer scored three touchdowns for Prosser, including two rushing and one receiving.
Cla—Dwyer 19 pass from Davis (Dwyer kick)
Pro—Thomas Neimeyer 11 pass from Kason Blair (Javier Diaz kick)
Cla—Shults 1 pass from Davis (Dwyer kick)
Pro—Neimeyer 53 run (Diaz kick)
Pro—Adrian Lochrie 5 run (Diaz kick)
Pro—Cardell Jones 28 pass from Tanner Bolt (conversion failed)
Pro—Neimeyer 19 run (Diaz kick)
Pro—Michael Kernan 10 run (Jones kick)
R—Gerard Weyns 1 run (Cesar Bernal kick)
R—Sawyer Stakkeland 12 pass from Kaden Jenks (Bernal kick)
R—Joe Lang 44 pass from Jenks (Bernal kick)
R—Sam Christensen 12 pass from Jenks (Bernal kick)
R—Darrin Miller 10 run (Bernal kick)
R—Miguel Ayala 31 run (Bernal kick)
R—Carson Gilbert 23 pass from Juan Niebla (Bernal kick)
L—Bryce Schimke 15 pass from Cameron Gay (Kelly Kyllo kick)
RUSHING — L, Grant Perkins 11-95, Shay Hutyler 7-21, Nick Christensen 2-(minus 1), Mason Labelle 1-2, Gay 1-(minus 3), Schimke 1-9. R, Danny Cuevas 4-20, Jenks 3-12, Niebla 1-(minus 2), Weyns 1-1, Lang 2-26, Andy Villafana 1-9, Ayala 19-166, Miller 9-58.
PASSING — L, Gay 15-38-2-193. R, Jenks 14-23-1-212, Niebla 2-2-0-28.
RECEIVING — L, Perkins 1-12, Hutyler 2-24, Christensen 3-48, David Rothe 1-18, Labelle 1-10, Kyllo 1-9, Schimke 5-47. R, Christensen 5-57, Jose Ponce 4-51, Gilbert 1-23, Stakkeland 2-27, Lang 3-77, Miller 1-0.
FIRST DOWNS—L 15, R 21. FUMBLES-LOST—L 3-3, R 1-1. PENALTIES—L 7-52, R 8-84.