The Pe Ell-Willapa Valley Titans football team had to feel as the proverbial red-headed stepchild to Pacific County rival Raymond-South Bend entering Saturday’s key 2B Pacific League matchup.
The unranked Titans were sitting at three losses on the season while the undefeated Ravens were climbing the ranks of the state’s most notable polls, reaching No. 5 on the scorebooklive.com rankings and No. 3 in the state Associated Press poll.
On Saturday, the red-headed stepchild made sure Pacific County football fans will remember these Titans.
Riding the play of its physical defensive, PWV upset RSB 28-14 in front of a packed Merle Millam Field on the campus of South Bend High School.
The Titans defense held the Ravens to a season-low 14 points in the game, shutting out RSB in the second half to earn the upset victory.
“We just played straight-up football,” Titans head coach Josh Fluke said of his team’s defensive performance. “Do your job and trust the person next to you. It was just solid gap-responsibility football and we had to tackle well because all their backs are studs. We knew they would get yards and score because they are a good team and are well-coached. So it was just keep them in front of us and just tackle them.”
In the first quarter, the Ravens’ big-play ability was on display as RSB drove downfield on its first offensive possession and scored when quarterback Austin Snodgrass threw a strike to slot receiver Kai Huey, who broke a tackle and sprinted 55 yards to paydirt for a 7-0 lead.
PWV (4-3 overall, 3-1 2B Pacific) found success in the game by following the right side of its offensive line that included linemen Garrett and Connor “Cheese” Keeton and tight end Derek Fluke.
Titans quarterback Kolten Fluke would punch it in from a yard out early in the second quarter to put PWV on the scoreboard. After Garrett Keeton’s PAT attempt rang off the upright, the Ravens held on to a slim 7-6 lead.
On PWV’s following possession, Huey intercepted a Kolten Fluke pass to give the ball back to the Ravens.
On the very next play, Snodgrass broke through the middle of the PWV defense and appeared to be headed to the end zone on another long TD run, but the ball was knocked out of his hands from behind, setting off a mad scramble at midfield for the bouncing ball. Garrett Keeton eventually picked up the loose ball and returned it to the RSB 37-yard line in a wild sequence.
Five plays later, Kolten Fluke found sophomore split end Kannyon Clements wide open behind the Ravens secondary for a 35-yard touchdown and a 12-7 lead.
RSB (6-1, 3-1) showed why it features one of the top scoring offenses in the state when Snodgrass broke free on the next play from scrimmage for an 86-yard touchdown run as the Ravens regained the lead 14-12.
PWV had its next possession thwarted when Snodgrass intercepted a Kolten Fluke pass at the RSB 39, giving the Ravens a chance to extend its lead before halftime.
Two key penalties pushed the Ravens drive back to the 25-yard line and on a third-down play, a Ravens fumble was recovered by PWV.
The Titans took advantage immediately, scoring on a 24-yard pass from Kolten Fluke to Derek Fluke on the ensuing play to go up 18-14 with 27.1 seconds on the clock.
On RSB’s next play from scrimmage, a Snodgrass pass was picked off by Derek Fluke and returned to the RSB 29-yard line.
Two plays later, Garrett Keeton — who is the reigning First Team All-Pacific League kicker — split the uprights for a 39-yard field goal as time expired, giving PWV a 21-14 lead at the half.
RSB took the second-half kickoff and — after picking up a first down on an 11-yard Ty Reidinger run — had its drive stall out at their own 30-yard line.
On fourth down, Garrett Keeton made another key play in the game, breaking through the line to block a Ravens punt and give PWV the ball at the RSB 20-yard line.
The Titans offense cashed in six plays later when running back Blake Howard broke tackles to score on an 8-yard run to put PWV up 28-14 in the third quarter.
“I saw an opening and I took a chance and I just went for it. It gave us an edge over them and a better opportunity to win this game,” Keeton said of his punt block. “(I was) excited, pumped up. I felt that we are going to win this game immediately because that was just a turnaround event for us.”
Down two scores in the fourth quarter, RSB had its best drive since early in the game, moving inside the PWV red zone.
But on 4th-and-8 from the PWV 9-yard line, RSB running back Skyler Hutson was stuffed by Garrett Keeton and sophomore linebacker Cody Strozyk, turning the ball back over to the Titans on downs.
Looking to kill time off the clock, PWV faced a 4th-and-short on its own 29-yard line. The Titans used a hard count while in punt formation to draw the Ravens offside and give the Titans a fresh set of downs.
After the Ravens used all three of its timeouts to stop the clock, PWV went to the hard count again a few plays later when Kolten Fluke caused the Ravens to jump offside for the second time in the drive.
“(RSB) is aggressive as hell on defense,” coach Fluke said of inducing the encroachment penalties. “We told our guys to just concentrate. ‘I know you’re getting tired and it’s the end of the game, but just do this for another three minutes and we can win this thing.’ And by God they did. They held their own and we got them offside.”
The Ravens would never get the ball back on offense as PWV was able to run out the clock and secure a momentous victory.
“PWV played well and we just made too many mistakes to win a football game,” RSB head coach Luke Abbott said.
PWV outgained the Ravens 314-279 with Kolten Fluke going 6-for-10 for 115 yards passing in the game.
The Titans defense was led by Garrett Keeton (8 tackles, punt block, fumble recovery), Kolten Fluke (11 tackles) and Strozyk (10 tackles).
RSB was led by Snodgrass and Reidinger, who rushed for 99 and 93 yards, respectively.
Penalties were an issue for both teams in the game, with the Titans racking up 10 flags for 80 yards while the Ravens had nine penalties for 75 yards.
The win was the first for PWV over a ranked opponent this season after losses to 1A Tenino, Adna and 2B No. 1 Napavine — all ranked at the time they faced the Titans.
”It feels great to finally be recognized this year for finally getting a win against one of the higher-ranked teams,” Garrett Keeton said of the win. “It shows us what we can be against these upper teams. We just got to keep working on it and working hard.”
“It’s nice. … We came in and put it in our minds that we could do it,” Titans senior Wil Clements said. “It feels good. We’re going to keep it rolling all the way through.”
Coach Fluke said the win was a nice reward for a team that will likely be overlooked no more.
“When our kids were down because of the close loses to Tenino and Adna, we just had to keep our heads up and the captains on our team and our seniors said, ‘Hey guys, we’re better than a three-loss team,’” he said. “They kept them up and practiced hard every day and we’re playing some good ball right now.”
PWV will take on Forks at 7 p.m. on Friday in Menlo.
RSB will play at No. 1 Napavine at 7 p.m. on Friday.