Kylle Robertson wasn’t the hero for Kamiakin. There wasn’t just one, after all.
But he was front, center and surrounded in the sequence that best distilled the heady brew of grit and skill that finally dislodged a desperate Walla Walla team and lifted the Braves to a significant victory Friday at Lampson Stadium.
With a one-score lead to protect, staring down a second-and-17 and an ever-ravenous Blue Devils blitz, Robertson backtracked in the pocket and was swallowed by a sea of white Walla Walla jerseys.
With defenders dangling off of him like wet mummy wrap, Robertson fired a dart to wide receiver Casey Brandon, who pulled in a 6-yard reception while absorbing a stiff blow.
It was an iconic snapshot of Kamiakin plugging away. Three plays later, scoring machine Umid Ramizov was in the end zone for a breathing-room touchdown, and the Braves were on their way to a 40-20 victory which clinched the top playoff seed among Class 3A Mid-Columbia Conference teams.
“That drive shows that teams who depend on big plays don’t go far, but teams that have constant drives do, that’s a good team,” said Ramizov, who rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns — while shaking off a hand injury and two lost fumbles. “That changed momentum.”
The drive, which saw Kamiakin (4-2 in MCC, 6-2) convert first downs after facing first-and-20 and first-and-22, came after the Braves’ defense forced a Walla Walla punt following Ramizov’s second lost fumble. His right, ball-carrying hand had been sandwiched between helmets — “I thought, ‘Oh crap, I broke it,’ ” Ramizov said — and the MCC’s leading touchdown scorer could not hold on.
He watched from the bench, a trainer taping his hand, as Kamiakin began its next drive.
Without their workhorse, the Braves found other ways to budge a Wa-Hi D that had been a huge catalyst in that surging squad’s five-game winnng streak, its best stretch of football since 2002.
Junior Michael Jones broke a 15-yard run. Then it was Robertson, wriggling for three yards to move the chains on third-and-3.
“Kyle is a clutch player,” Ramizov said. “Just a great leader.”
Ramizov returned and gained five yards. After Robertson’s escape-artist moment, he whipped an 18-yarder from a much cleaner pocket to Hunter Schauers, whose only catch of the game converted third-and-11.
Then it was Ramizov for four yards to the five, and five yards to a crucial score, giving the Braves a 27-14 lead with just 12:47 left in the game.
The drive was emblematic of Kamiakin’s night: it featured two of the home team’s 10 penalties of one of three turnovers, including an interception that Wa-Hi’s Stuart Gillin returned for a 53-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter.
Kamiakin took a 14-7 lead on Robertson’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon after another balletic escape late in the first quarter, and led 20-7 after Jones rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown with 4:50 left in the half.
But Walla Walla (4-2, 5-3), which was eliminated from 4A playoff contention by the loss, would not go away, as quarterback Zach Zehner absorbed a ferocious hit by a blitzing Brave while delivering a 23-yard touchdown strike to Gerardo Gomez to make it 20-14 just before half.
Ramizov’s third-quarter touchdown was a nest-kicker of sorts. Wa-Hi went three-and-punt, and after Ramizov’s 67-yard run put Kamiakin in immediate business, and Jones hauled in a pass in the flat and bulldozed a defender for a 10-yard touchdown mments later.
Dalton Tuveson’s 39-yard interception return for a touchdown two plays later was the dagger, giving Kamiakin a 40-14 lead with 8:49 left.
Walla Walla 7 7 0 6 -- 20
Kamiakin 14 6 7 13 -- 40
K -- Umid Ramizov 3 run (Brad Thompson kick), 8:47
WW -- Stuart Gillin 53 INT return (Ethan Gardner kick), 6:24
K -- Casey Brandon 19 pass from Kylle Robertson (Thompson kick), 3:29
K -- Michael Jones 25 run (kick failed), 4:50
WW -- Gerardo Gomez 23 pass from Zach Zehner (Gardner kick), 3:01
K -- Ramizov 5 run (Thompson kick), :47.1
K -- Jones 10 pass from Robertson (kick failed), 10:05
K -- Dalton Tuveson 39 INT return (Thompson kick), 8:57
WW -- Mitchell Huffman 5 pass from Zehner (pass failed), 7:10
RUSHING -- WW: Hayes 8-50, Gillin 2-3, Porter 2-5, Zehner 6-(-22); K: Ramizov 29-215, Jones 6-60, Robertson 3-(-1).
RECEIVING -- WW: Gillin 2-35, Magnaghi 2-47, Handcox 2-14, Gomez 2-30, Swant 1-6, Hayes 1-15, Huffman 5-5; K: Navejas 6-78, Brandon 2-25, Farrah 1-20, Moore 1-10, Rathbun 1-13, Shauers 1-18, Jones 1-0.
PASSING -- WW: Zehner 12-of-24, 158 yards, two TDs, two INTs; K: Robertson: 13-22, 174, two TDs, one INT.