The Kennewick High School football team came into Thursday night’s matchup against Pasco with a goal in mind: Stop the run.
The Lions defense only allowed Pasco’s feature running back Efrain Farias to four carries of more than four yards — just one before the subs entered in the fourth quarter — as he finished with 74 yards on 22 totes, and Kennewick took down Pasco 35-7 in a must-win, MCC season finale game at Lampson Stadium.
“Coach (Oliver) Browning and the rest of the defensive staff worked very, very hard this week,” Kennewick coach Bill Templeton said. “Our kids are more and more and more starting to learn our scheme and our fits, our coverages. We’re doing things at the right time.”
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The victory kept Kennewick alive for the conference’s second and final 3A postseason berth. The Lions (3-6, 2-5) needed No. 5 Kamiakin (7-1, 5-1) to beat Southridge (3-5, 2-4) later Thursday to clinch their spot.
Kennewick beat Southridge 12-7 last week to stay in playoff contention
“It’s the first win streak of the year,” Templeton said. “We’ll enjoy it right now, then get back to work tomorrow. We’re Braves fans for the next 3 hours or so, and we’ll see what happens.”
Offensively, a maligned Kennewick unit moved the ball at will against Pasco’s defense. The offensive line blasted open truck-sized gaps up front, and fullback JJ Rodriguez (nine carries for 82 yards) and tailback Cedric Riel (10 carries, 55 yards, three touchdowns) took advantage.
“It’s very exciting,” said Riel, a senior. “Our season took a huge, positive turn last week, and it’s all about just carrying that momentum into next week. This is probably the last game I’m going to play in this stadium, and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
With the running game picking up yards in chunks, quarterback Tim Gee had his best game of the season. The junior completed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards, with no interceptions, and found Zenon Thornton 3 times for 63 yards, which included a 21-yard scoring strike
As poor as the result turned out to be for the Bulldogs (0-9, 0-7), they started the game with a flurry.
Kennewick received the opening kickoff and drove into Pasco territory on just three plays, but Jose Moreno-Gudino stripped the ball on a run by Rodriguez, and Farias recovered to change possession. Pasco then drove 69 yards in 8 minutes, 30 seconds, with Kason Tate hitting on 5 of 5 passes for 56 yards and finding Brandon Scott on a 6-yard fade route to take a 7-0 lead.
“I feel after the first drive we kind of woke up,” said Kennewick defensive lineman and fullback Moses McAninch, who finished with two tackles for loss and three catches for 26 yards. “Playing Thursday at 5 ain’t the best feeling, but I feel like that woke us up a bit. We got the run in check, which forced them to rely on the pass more, screens and such.”
Tate struggled from there, completing just one of seven passes for 2 yards and a pick to close the half, and the Lions scored 28 unanswered points to take a three-touchdown lead into the locker room that would never be threatened.
Riel popped his third touchdown of the game in, from 4 yards out, with 11 minutes to play, which capped the scoring and turned out to be the only points of the second half.
Tate finished the game with 141 yards on 20 of 34 passing, but was intercepted by Tucker Newman, Emilio Ramos and Joey Garza.
P—Brandon Scott 6 pass from Kashon Tate (Jose Moreno-Gudino kick)
K—Cedric Riel 9 run (Emilio Ramos kick)
K—Zenon Thornton 21 pass from Tim Gee (Ramos kick)
K—Riel 3 run (Ramos kick)
K—Gee 2 run (Ramos kick)
RUSHING — P, Efrain Farias 22-74; Tate 3-3. K, JJ Rodriguez 9-82; Riel 10-55; Ethan Woolery 5-38; Blaine Chavez 2-10; Gee 3-8; Jacob Schuldheisz 2-3 Talon LaFontaine 1-1.
PASSING — P, Tate 20-34-3—141. K, Gee 10-16-0—122.
RECEIVING — P, Jose Farias 4-36; Kael Stueckle 2-35; Scott 4-32; Avery Burrows 3-22; Nicholas Gutierrez 2-20; E.Farias 3-3; team 2-1. K, Zenon Thornton 3-63; Moses McAninch 3-26; LaFontaine 3-19; Brayden McCarley 1-14.