I’m a big fan of offensive lines and defense.
That football games are won in the trenches isn’t just a cliche, it’s a way of life.
Which is why it’s no surprise I was a big fan of Friday night’s game between Southridge and Kennewick. Despite the 35-14 score — seven touchdowns — there was some amazing defense.
First, Kennewick defensive end Shaun Smith has quickness off the corner that rivals that of (brace yourselves, Kamiakin fans) the Braves’ Jon Allen. At 6-feet and 160 pounds, the junior transplant from Vancouver, Wash., was more than a handful for Southridge’s line putting pressure on Matt Mendenhall.
Smith and Tyler Morfin — an amazing athlete at 6-4 and 230 pounds — make a great pair of book ends.
On Southridge’s defense, Chance White had a monumental game. I don’t keep tackling stats when I cover games — I actually like to look up from all the stat sheets once in a while — but I do track tackles for loss, and White had 5 of those solo plus another with an assist from Austin Brinkworth.
White also isn’t the biggest guy in the world — 5-9 and 190 — but he packs a wallop and has a large presence on the field. It also shouldn’t be a surprise I was thrilled with the quarterback play of Mendenhall and his Kennewick counterpart, Drew Loftus.
Actually, it’s hard to think of Loftus as a “counterpart,” because what he’s doing out of the Lions backfield is impossible to duplicate.
On one play, he’s setting up a throw-back screen or making a little flip into the flats for a quick gainer. On the next, he’s taking the snap and taking off, a single-wing play straight out of the grainy black-and-white films before the forward pass was much of a weapon.
Follow that up with a deep pass downfield, and you get the complete package. Not to mention, there aren’t many runners who finish as hard as Loftus, who hits tacklers more than he gets tacklers.
Mendenhall, a junior in his first season as a varsity QB, is a pocket passer with big-time zip who uses his mobility to keep plays alive, buying extra time for his receivers.
Two plays come to mind from late in Friday’s game. First, Mendenhall was flushed on fourth-and-10, feeling pressure for the umpteenth time. He broke contain but didn’t take off, instead pulling up near the line of scrimmage before finding Chris Haueter open in the middle of the field with enough room to run for the first down.
The second play came on the next snap, which was shot-gunned over Mendenhall’s head. He corralled the ball running toward his own end zone, got turned around and found Dallin Palmer downfield.
As it happened, Loftus — also a shutdown corner — popped in front of Palmer and just missed picking off the pass. Still, he got a hand on it, and Palmer couldn’t haul it in.
It went as a simple incomplete pass, but what a play.