It wasn’t a perfect victory Thursday night, but Kamiakin Coach Scott Biglin and his players will gladly work on their problems next week with a 1-0 record.
Tuna Altahir rushed for 140 yards and scored three touchdowns, sophomore quarterback Henry Mercado passed for 248 yards and three TDs, and Kellen Rutz caught four passes for 114 yards and two TDs, as the Braves beat West Valley of Yakima 46-24 in the season opener Thursday night at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick.
“Am I happy? We’ve got some work to do,” said Biglin. “West Valley has got some young guys. We’ve got some young guys. But our guys are all ready to watch film on Southridge and get ready for their next game.”
The Braves won despite compiling 102 yards in penalties, and turning the ball over four times.
But thanks to a fast, aggressive defense that sacked Rams QB Isaac Madrigal at least six times, Kamiakin was never really threatened from the second quarter on.
The Rams held a 7-6 lead in the first quarter – thanks to a Hayden Morehouse 2-yard TD run – before Altahir gave the Braves the lead for good on a 14-yard touchdown scamper.
West Valley’s Devin Duthie cut Kamiakin’s lead to 13-10 with a 22-yard field goal with 10:32 left in the first half.
But from that point on, the Braves reeled off 20 unanswered points with a 54-yard TD pass from Mercado to Rutz, a 4-yard scoring strike from Mercado to Woodley Downard, and a 2-yard TD run by Altahir in the third quarter for a 33-10 lead.
The Rutz score was particularly telling.
Lined up out to the right, the senior broke from the line of scrimmage on a dead sprint and cut a swath through the Rams defense. Running downfield on a fly pattern right down the seam, Rutz gathered in Mercado’s perfectly thrown ball for the score.
He had done the same thing to open the game, catching an 18-yarder for the opening score. Later in the game, he caught a 30-yard pass down to the 3 on the same pattern.
They had noticed the safeties moving up and “he just split the seams,” said Biglin.
“Henry and I work on that a lot at practice,” said Rutz. “It’s crisp.”
Speaking of crisp, Kamiakin’s defense harassed Madrigal enough to keep the Rams off balance.
“They’re scrappy,” said Biglin of his defensive unit. “They changed up their looks. They missed a lot of tackles. But credit goes to them. They made the plays.”
Especially sophomore linebacker Luis Salgado and senior defensive back Aidan Leonard. Both players made key tackles for losses near the goal line early in the second quarter.
West Valley, down 13-7 at the time, had a first-and-goal situation at the Kamiakin 2 at the time. But the two tackles for losses forced the Rams to settle for that field goal instead of a game-tying touchdown.
Leonard, unofficially, had nine tackles (two for loss), a pass breakup and a cover. Salgado was credited for five tackles, two of the quarterback sacks, and a pass breakup.
Downard, playing nose tackle, had two QB sacks himself, while Altahir – playing safety – added five tackles.
Drew Johnson led West Valley with nine tackles and an interception.
West Valley 7 3 7 7 -- 24
Kamiakin 13 14 6 13 -- 46
Kam – Kellen Rutz 18 pass from Henry Mercado (kick failed)
WV – Hayden Morehouse 2 run (Devin Duthie kick)
Kam – Tuna Altahir 14 run (Braeden Staniszewski kick)
WV – FG 22 Duthie
Kam – Rutz 54 pass from Mercado (Staniszewski kick)
Kam – Woodley Downard 4 pass from Mercado (Staniszewski kick)
Kam – Altahir 2 run (kick failed)
WV – Isaac Madrigal 12 run (Duthie kick)
Kam – Altahir 3 run (Staniszewski kick)
WV – Jace Taylor-Reed 60 fumble recovery (Duthie kick)
Kam – Lucas Castilleja 19 run (snap fumbled)
RUSHING – WV, Morehouse 8-20, Christian Montelongo 3-minus 3, Madrigal 13-minus 11, Totals 24-6. Kam, Altahir 26-140, Castilleja 8-94, Luis Salgado 2-8, Rutz 1-6, Gilbert Marquez 1-minus 3, Team 1-minus 14.
PASSING – WV, Madrigal 20-48-1-237. Kam, Mercado 11-22-2-248, Castilleja 1-2-0-2.
RECEIVING – WV, Jack Vandebrake 8-90, Caleb Woodcock 5-82, Morehouse 2-39, Jack Sutton 2-16, Sy Steele 2-6, Drew Johnson 1-4. Kam, Rutz 4-114, Downard 2-72, Messiah Jones 3-24, Salgado 1-23, Niko Wiltz 1-11, Altahir 1-6.
FIRST DOWNS – WV 13, Kam 21. PENALTIES-YARDS – WV 8-63, Kam 14-102. FUMBLES-LOST – WV 1-1, Kam 4-2.