To say it has been a rough first half of the season for the Aberdeen Bobcats football team would be an understatement.
The Bobcats have taken their lumps in three straight shutout losses, two of those coming in blowout fashion to state-ranked teams.
But that was all washed away Saturday night, cleansed by a rousing 12-7 late-game victory over the Rochester Warriors at Stewart Field in Aberdeen.
With the game a scoreless tie through the first three quarters, Aberdeen began to find some running room on the edges of the Rochester defense over the final 15 minutes of the game.
“(Aberdeen assistant coach) Clarence Sawyer saw that the Rochester defense was so geared at stopping all of our dives through the middle that they were over-committing and blitzing linebackers. That was leaving them out of position,” Aberdeen head coach Todd Bridge said. “So when we were running a sweep, there were cutback lanes that were bigger than life. Clarence just stuck with it and kept doing it until they stopped it, and they never stopped it.”
The offensive strategy paid off when running back Jeremy Sawyer broke free on a sweep play to the right side and scored on a 32-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter. The touchdown capped a six-play, 80 yard drive and not only gave Aberdeen its first lead of the game at 6-0, but its first points of the season.
Aberdeen’s two-point conversion failed, and that would prove to be costly as the Bobcats nursed a 6-0 lead with the Warriors (1-3) driving deep into Aberdeen territory on their next possession. The Warriors — who scored 40 points in a victory over Centralia the previous week — had their best drive of the game that resulted in a 1st-and-goal situation from the 3-yard line, set up by a 40-yard pass from quarterback Landon Hawes to receiver Erik Vasquez.
But Aberdeen’s defense was up to the task, thwarting the Warriors threat with a goal-line stand that preserved the Bobcats lead, though only momentarily.
After the Bobcats’ following drive stalled at their own 43 and they were forced to punt, Rochester took another shot at taking the lead late in the game. This time, it didn’t take a long drive down the field, but one big play.
On third-and-long from the Warriors’ 5-yard line, Hawes scrambled to his right and found receiver Talon Betts streaking down the sideline. The speedy junior wideout did the rest, out running the Aberdeen defense for a 95-yard touchdown reception that seemed to suck the life out of the Aberdeen faithful.
Rochester kicker Chris Rodriguez nailed the extra point, giving the Warriors a 7-6 lead with 3:55 left in the game.
Aberdeen responded with a memorable 13-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with another sweep to the right side from Jeremy Sawyer, who scored from 2 yards out to give Aberdeen a 12-7 lead with just 25 seconds left.
“We thought ‘Might as well run it,’” Jeremy Sawyer said of the sweep play that scored the touchdown and was frequently used during Aberdeen’s two scoring drives. “It looked like it was working every time.”
The Bobcat defense was never threatened on Rochester’s final drive of the game, securing an improbable 12-7 win for the Aberdeen, its first of the season.
“We had the determination (to win) from the beginning,” Jeremy Sawyer said of the victory. “We wanted this win and we wanted it bad so we could use it as motivation to win every game after that.”
Sawyer finished with a game-high 140 yards on 27 carries. Aberdeen out rushed Rochester 281-22, led by Sawyer, sophomore Trey Anderson (eight carries, 77 yards) and senior Connar Sherman (six carries, 50 yards).
Aberdeen’s defense held Rochester to 176 yards of total offense, with 154 of those coming through the passing game, as the Bobcats sacked Hawes five times and forced three turnovers (two interceptions, fumble).
Betts led Rochester with two catches for 154 receiving yards and 19 carries for 33 rushing yards.
“Our defense stepped up no doubt and our coaches worked their tails off,” Bridge said. “The kids listened, they’re malleable and they just believe in the system and it’s working great.”
Montesano 41, La Center 24
Montesano quarterback Trace Ridgway scored four touchdowns as the Bulldogs trounced La Center, 41-24, on Saturday at Woodland High School.
La Center (2-1) made Montesano (4-0, 3-0 1A Evergreen) play catch-up early on as the Wildcats scored less than a minute into the game after running back Bryten Schmitz scored on a 34-yard TD run.
But Monte proved why it’s among the cream of the crop of southwest Washington 1A football, tying the game at 8-8 on an 11-yard TD pass from Ridgway to senior receiver Christian Prall on the ensuing possession, followed by a 9-yard scoring run from Ridgway at the 6:24 mark of opening quarter.
Leading 15-8, the Bulldogs continued to apply pressure to the Wildcats, namely Ridgway. From his defensive line position, the senior recorded a safety for Monte at 9:23 in the second quarter and followed that with back-to-back touchdown runs of 11 and 36 yards, respectively, midway through the second frame.
Montesano opened up a 31-8 lead by halftime and never looked back.
An 11-yard field goal by Jaeger Didion in the third quarter and Ridgway’s fourth TD run — this time from a yard out — with 8:37 left in the game pushed the Montesano lead to 41-16 and allowed the Bulldogs backups to get some playing time.
Montesano compiled 20 first downs and 331 yards of total offense, 252 of those coming via the ground game. Ridgway had 22 carries for 182 yards and the four rushing touchdowns. He threw for 79 yards on 8-of-11 passing and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs defense allowed 294 yards of offense — 173 passing and 121 rushing.
La Center quarterback Tom Lambert was 13-of-26 passing with one TD. He was also intercepted by Montesano linebacker Mateo Sanchez in the first half.
Ocosta 8, Forks 0
Ocosta put in another stellar defensive effort, allowing Forks zero shots in an 8-0 shutout Saturday in Westport.
Devyn Martin earned her sixth shutout of the season, while getting help from defenders Maia Soderlund, Abriana Ness, Gabby Ness, Taeler Jardine and Trinity Whitem, who kept Forks from forging any threatening scoring chances.
Ocosta (6-2, 4-2 2B Pacific) scored on Kylee Denny goals in the 10th minute (assist by Miki Ness) and off a steal a minute later.
Natalie Carloza scored off an assist from Denny just before halftime to make it a 3-0 game.
Ryann Raffelson arrived at halftime and, after attending to family matters, sparked the Wildcat offense by feeding Ness passes for goals in the 47th and 55th minutes.
Denny, an eighth-grader, followed by completing the first hat trick of her prep career with a goal in the 57th minute.
Raffelson added a goal in the 63nd minute, followed by Ness earning a hat trick of her own off a feed from Denny in the 72nd minute.
“We hadn’t played since Monday and our shots were off in the first half, but we kept the pressure up throughout the game,” Ocosta head coach Mike King said. “Raffelson, who played in only her fourth game, stepped up and gave us a physical presence up front. Denny and (Natalie) Carloza did an outstanding job at midfield for us.”
Montesano 3, WF West 0
Montesano continued to play outstanding volleyball on Saturday, defeating WF West 3-0 in a non-conference game in Montesano.
Monte (9-0 overall, 7-0 1A Evergreen) won in straight sets 25-13, 25-18 and 25-19.
The Bulldogs were led by Jessica Stanfield (11 kills), Ashlyn Devereaux (10 digs), Myah Gallinger (17 assists), Olivia Young (eight aces) and Addie Winter (two solo blocks).
“The girls played really good defense today with some great digs and passes to help Myah set up the hitters,” Monte head coach Pat Pace said of the win.