Chiawana didn’t get out to the fast start it might have wanted Friday night against Hanford, but the Riverhawks eventually wore down the Falcons on both sides of the ball as they picked up the 49-14 win on homecoming night at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium.
AJ Vongphachanh was the heart and soul of a Chiawana defense that held the usually dynamic Falcons (2-2 overall, 0-2 Mid-Columbia Conference) to just 130 yards. Vongphachanh recorded a score for Chiawana (4-0, 2-0) on a 35-yard scoop-and-score after a mishandled snap.
“They played really well,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said of his defense. “Again, the defensive guys put together a good plan, and the kids did a good job of executing it, except for one play in the first half. It’s about blocking and tackling, and if the coaches do a good job of coaching that up, we’re gonna come out on top.”
Chiawana’s offense was a bit more balanced than in past weeks, with more responsibility placed on the shoulders of senior quarterback Troy Simpkins, who finished 11-of-15 passing for 137 yards with two scores and no interceptions. The modified play selection was mainly a reaction to Hanford’s defensive scheme, Graff said.
“When they put eight guys in the box, and we’ve got four receivers, the math doesn’t work out real well for them,” Graff said. “We’ve gotta throw the ball out there when they’re not going to cover guys.”
Simpkins also ran in a 1-yard score on a quarterback sneak, and he said he enjoyed the chance to play a bigger part in Chiawana’s typically run-heavy offense.
“It was fun,” Simpkins said. “I mean, I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do to get the win. But if we’re gonna pass the ball, we’ve got guys out on the outside that can make plays, so I’ll get the ball to them.”
Chiawana senior running back Andrew Vargas, who entered the game leading the MCC in rushing yards (982) and touchdowns (13), didn’t come near last week’s 417-yard, four-TD performance against Kamiakin, but he still had a fine game. Vargas dashed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, which allowed Chiawana to hold on to the ball for more than 31 minutes.
Senior linebacker Caleb Weber came unblocked off the right edge on Hanford’s first play of the game from scrimmage to hit Falcons quarterback Garrett Horner and force an interception to Hayden Carrasco. The Riverhawks took advantage of the good field position by going 37 yards in four plays and cashing in on a short touchdown run by Vargas.
But the Falcons wouldn’t go away quietly in the early going. They capitalized on some good field position of their own — queued up by a bad snap on a Chiawana punt — to answer back with a 24-yard touchdown strike from Horner to wideout Joe Gauthier midway through the first quarter.
Gauthier was by far Hanford’s top offensive weapon, as he also scored on a 76-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with three catches for 99 yards.
The Falcons did a nice job of keeping Vargas in check in the first half. A 43-yard scamper, which would have been a 69-yard touchdown if not for a block-in-the-back penalty, was the only time the Chiawana workhorse was able to get loose.
C — Andrew Vargas 3 run (Ryan Lowry kick)
H — Joe Gauthier 24 pass from Garrett Horner (Woody Page kick)
C — Troy Simpkins 1 run (kick failed)
C — Hayden Carrasco 10 pass from Simpkins (Josiah Richardson run)
C — Trent Simpkins 66 punt return (Lowry kick)
C — Vargas 9 run (Lowry kick)
C — AJ Vongphachanh 35 fumble return (Lowry kick)
C — Josiah Richardson 30 pass from Troy Simpkins (Lowry kick)
H — Gauthier 76 pass from Horner (Page kick)
RUSHING — H, Tayvonne Miller 12-27, Drezdyn O’Daol 1-12, Horner 7-(minus 42). C, Vargas 26-167, Ethan Garcia 7-25, Enoch Vargas 2-17, Troy Simpkins 2-6.
PASSING — H, Horner 10-15-2-130. C, Troy Simpkins 11-15-0-137.
RECEIVING — H, Gauthier 3-99, Thomas Kitchens 1-20, Tayvonne Miller 2-7, Brady White 3-5. C, Josiah Richardson 3-45, Michael Sanchez 1-27, Trent Simpkins 4-24, Hayden Carrasco 2-24, Brayde Hirai 1-17.