High School Football

Southridge, Richards hit Hanford with big plays (w/ gallery, video)

KENNEWICK -- The touchdown was on his hands, and then it was on the ground, and Josh Richards knew he had just cost his team seven points.

But rather than pout or get down on himself, Southridge's senior play-maker went out and got his team three more scores.

Richards hauled in four balls for 217 yards, accounting for the bulk of Matt Mendenhall's 316 yards passing in the Suns' 31-10 win over the Hanford Falcons in a CBBN 3A contest at Lampson Stadium on Friday night.

Richards scored on a 75-yard bomb and 78-yard screen in the first half, which along with Tanner Gottschalk's 40-yard interception return for another score right before the half made all the difference.

"We try to run first, use the play-action. But this was one we knew we could throw the ball around," said Mendenhall, who completed 13 of 21 throws, finding Richards again for a 34-yard score to salt the game away early in the fourth quarter.

"We've been throwing shorter passes this season, but we wanted to get some big plays. That was one of our goals."

Achieved, and just in time for the Suns (4-1, 3-0) to give a little pause to their next opponent, unbeaten Kamiakin next week.

"We have a great running back, and when you stop him, we have four or five guys who can go makes plays," said Richards, who just missed hauling in a perfect strike from Mendenhall that would have been a touchdown on the Suns' opening drive.

But he knew he would have more chances to make good.

"That's what I said," Richards recalled. "After that first time, I got the rest of the game and I can't get down on myself. There's still 42 minutes to play."

Despite the big passing numbers, Southridge had trouble moving the ball with any consistency. Chris Haueter, the top rusher in the league, was limited to 41 yards on 15 carries and had just 7 at the half.

"Our defensive line is physical," said Hanford coach Rob Oram, whose Falcons (2-3, 2-1) suffered their first league loss. "We've held every team under 100 yards rushing except Richland. We're stout vs. the run. But passing was not hard tonight. Mendenhall's tough to corral, and when he has 20 seconds to throw the ball, he's tough to stop."

Suns coach Tony Reiboldt saw an opportunity there.

"Defensively, their front seven plays really, really strong," he said. "They're very aggressive up front, and we just knew that screen would be there.

"Matt checking into that was big, huge."

But the screen didn't start out looking like much of a play, with Richards seemingly hemmed in for a loss.

"At first I didn't see anything," he said. "Then the defensive end was there, and I made a move on him, and then my line was blocking great the rest of the way."

Hanford had trouble finding much offense after driving 54 yards for a 22-yard field goal by Will Bishop and a brief 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

Falcons quarterback Austin Forsyth hit Kyle Lafon for a 36-yard gain down the sideline on the drive, but the passing game dried up after that.

Meanwhile, Hanford's staple running game had trouble getting started, with an banged-up Isaac Benard -- coming off a 100-yard game filling in for Jalen DeVine last week -- managing just 10 yards on 13 carries before sitting in the second half.

That's when Bishop, a sophomore No. 3 back with a cast on his left hand, tore off some nice runs on his way to 109 yards, and Tyler Sanchez popped in a 14-yard TD run in the third quarter to cut the lead to 14.

"Broken hand, and he has a huge game," Oram said. "Our No. 3 runner, and we put him in and he goes for 100 yards.

Still, Hanford was held to 278 total yards, and eight different Southridge defenders had a sack or tackle for loss.

"Ultimately, the game came down to about five plays," Oram said. "Southridge made the plays, and we didn't."

* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; kanthony@tricityherald.com

Southridge 31, Hanford 10

Hanford 3 0 7 0 -- 10

Southridge 7 17 0 7 -- 31

SCORING PLAYS

H--FG Will Bishop 22

S--Josh Richards 75 pass from Matt Mendenhall (Conner Mertens kick)

S--FG Mertens 35

S--Richards 78 pass from Mendenhall (Mertens kick)

S--Tanner Gottschalk 40 interception return (Mertens kick)

H--Tyler Sanchez 14 run (Bishop kick)

S--Richards 34 pass from Mendenhall (Mertens kick)

STATISTICS

RUSHING--H, Bishop 17-109, Sanchez 4-36, Isaac Benard 13-10, Austin Forsyth 9-8, Durrell Kinsey 2-8, Brandon Reeves 1-2. S, Chris Haueter 15-41, Mendenhall 2-11, Robb Ellsworth 2-0, Paul Hamada 1-(minus 10), Team 1-(minus 1).

PASSING--H, Forsyth 7-15-2-105. S, Mendenhall 13-21-0-316.

RECEIVING--H, Tyler Stecker 2-17, Kyle Lafon 1-36, Sanchez 1-23, Josh Tayamen 1-16, Benard 1-11, Jake Oram 1-2. S, Hamada 5-78, Richards 4-217, Haueter 2-14, Kadin Diaz 1-7, Garrett Willard 1-0.

FIRST DOWNS--H 16, S 11. FUMBLES-LOST--H 2-0, S 2-2. PENALTIES-YARDS--H 8-60, S 8-89.

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