As tough as it was for Chiawana to play without 4A all-state running back Jordan Downing, it was even more difficult for the four-year starter to watch his team from the sidelines during the Riverhawks' 28-0 win over Davis on Friday in Pasco.
"It was killing me," said Downing, who had racked up 954 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries -- a seven yard average -- in six games before a spiral fracture of his right fibula ended his season. "It just tears me apart inside not to be out there. I love these guys."
The feeling is mutual. That much was evident when Downing led them onto the turf at Edgar Brown Stadium before the game. Surrounded by his teammates decked out in royal blue uniforms minutes before kickoff, he delivered a few emotional words of inspiration.
"His words mean so much more than just talk," said Miquiyah Zamora, a fellow four-year defensive starter and Downing's best friend.
Chiawana sophomore Terro Bell filled in admirably for Downing, rolling up 176 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. But it was Zamora who scored the Riverhawks' last TD, taking a handoff from quarterback Joey Zamora, bouncing outside and strolling in for a 1-yard score with 6:31 left in the game.
The first thing he did after crossing the goal line was run over to Downing on the sideline and give his friend a hug.
-- The Hermiston Bulldogs have won four of their last five games, averaged 42.6 points a game in that span and locked up a postseason berth.
All of which, coach Mark Hodges said, might not have happened but for the Bulldogs' dreadful game against Kennewick way back in Week 2.
"That was a wake-up call for us," Hodges said of the 34-0 loss. "We beat Walla Walla going out of the gate, and Kennewick was a game we were looking forward to. ... And in the second half we just kind of peed down our leg.
"The next week after that, we became an entirely different football team. The second half of that game, we were a bunch of selfish crybabies. We look a lot different in Week 7 than we did in Week 2."
A big part of that is a new philosophy in the running game, which gained just 38 yards on 34 carries against the Lions buy has since racked up 1,344 yards and averaged 6 yards a carry.
"It all starts with having a physical mindset," Hodges said. "That's what we preach, that's what we talk about. Finish every block, finish every play."
No one exemplifies that philosophy better than senior running back Bobby Adams, a 170-pounder who put away his dancing shoes from last season and became a north-south kind of guy.
Adams has topped 200 yards in all five of those games since Kennewick, topping out with 314 yards and four touchdowns in Friday's 55-14 blowout of Hood River Valley. Adams has rushed for 1,434 yards and 15 TDs this season, averaging 7.1 yards a carry.
"What we say is the sign of a good back is a back that, if a play is blocked for 2 yards, gets 4. If a play is blocked for 3 yards, gets six. That's the sign of a good back."
And that's what Adams has been, running behind an offensive line anchored on the left side by senior Tate Gabriel at tackle and sophomore Damien Martinez at guard.
-- Rarely is there a whole lot of good to take away from the short end of a 41-0 score, and no doubt film study will not produce a bonanza of smiles for Pasco coming off a rough loss to Southridge.
But one thing the Bulldogs can feel good about is the play of their secondary, led by senior Ethan Cantu.
Southridge's big-play receiver Josh Richards was coming off two games in which he racked up 383 yards and four TDs on nine catches, including scores of 75-, 78- and 80-yards.
Against Pasco, he caught four balls for 47 yards, the longest a 26-yard connection. The Bulldogs defense did a good job flowing to the ball and keeping the dangerous senior from turning any short gains into big plays.
The Suns, meanwhile, were focused on running the ball, which they did with 220 yards on the ground, 181 by CBBN 3A rushing leader Chris Haueter.
W-P 26, TC Prep 20
Waitsburg-Prescott's Zach Bartlow had three touchdowns on 67 passing yards, Tri-Cities Prep's Evan Whitsett had three TDs on 352 launches, but it was the Cardinals' Billy Brown and his 22-yard TD run which made the difference in a Southeast 2B road contest Friday against the Jaguars.