PASCO – Waitsburg-Prescott wasn’t able to stop the Oroville offense very often.
Problem was, the Hornets couldn’t stop the W-P offense at all.
The Cardinals, trying for their second straight state 2B championship, ran over, around and through the Oroville defense to a 54-26 victory in Friday’s opening-round playoff game at Pasco’s Edgar Brown Stadium.
“We played well offensively,” said Oroville coach Tam Hutchinson. “But our tackling … we work on tackling more than anything else. I don’t know what that was tonight.”
The Hornets actually led early in the game, but in a portent of things to come, held that advantage for only 13 seconds.
Luke Kindred and Tanner Smith combined to cap an impressive opening drive for the Hornets as Kindred hit his primary receiver for a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 6-0 lead.
But W-P’s Chance Leroue returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to bring the Cards even without having to run an offensive play, and Dalton Estes’ PAT gave his team a 7-6 lead.
The Cardinals’ offense was just as efficient, never needing more than five plays to score. W-P’s first string offense ended all but one possession with a touchdown — and even the one time they had to punt, the Cardinals had a 75-yard scoring pass erased by a penalty to set them back inside their own 10.
W-P played a near-perfect game offensively, and the Hornet defense cooperated with a bevy of missed tackles that turned a number of short runs and pass receptions into long-gainers. Oroville dominated the time of possession, running a whopping 75 plays to Waitsburg’s 33. W-P, though, outgained the Hornets 488-373, with quarterback Sterling Eastman remarkably completing all 12 of his pass attempts for 250 yards. Most of his passes were short, quick slants and outs while working out of the Cards’ pistol shotgun that receivers James Thompkins and running backs Dalton Estes and Leroue turned into big plays.
“They have some offensive weapons, that’s for sure,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t know if those kids were really that good or not, but they were hard to bring down.”
Kindred wasn’t so shabby himself, completing 9-of-15 for 194 yards and rushing for 97 yards on 25 carries. Smith had an impressive night as Kindred’s primary target, accounting for all of the quarterback’s completions and beating W-P’s double coverage on him on several occasions.
“It kind of sounds cheesy, but Tanner and I kind of have a special bond,” Kindred said. “When I look at him I know what he’s thinking, and he knows what I’m thinking. We just connect. That makes it so we can have the kinds of plays that we do.”
The Hornets’ rushing attack was hampered by an injury to Dustin Nigg suffered in practice the previous night, and when he did play he dislocated a finger that put him back on the sideline. Connolly Quick was also on the sidelines in street clothes and Eddie Ocampo never fully regained his form after suffering an injury a few weeks earlier.
Still, Oroville only punted twice, going 3-of-6 on fourth down attempts. Twice in the first half they were stopped inches short of converting fourth downs that would have extended drives, including once from their own 35.
As it was, it didn’t matter where W-P started on the field as the Cards had no trouble finding ways to score.
“Offensively, we feel like we’re pretty unstoppable when we play with our hearts,” Kindred said. “Defensively, missing tackles, we really need to work on.”
Oroville did everything it could to match the Cards score-for-score. Despite falling behind 28-6, the Hornets put together a pair of drives before halftime to make a game of it. Kindred hit Smith for their second touchdown pass connection of the game on a 17-yarder with 2:53 left in the half, but W-P responded with a lightning-quick, three-play, 45-second drive to offset that score.
The Hornet offense finished the half with a two-minute drive of its own, scoring with 17 seconds left on a one-yard Kindred plunge to make it 34-20.
One stop by the Oroville defense to start the third quarter would have given the Hornets a legitimate chance to get back in the game.
Instead, W-P quarterback Sterling Eastman started the half with a pair of passes to Leroue, who took the second one 39 yards for a touchdown.
Eastman connected with James Thompkins for a 65-yard score on W-P’s next possession and Estes added a short touchdown run to put the game out of reach before the quarter was over.
The Hornets kept at it, converting a 15-play drive into a 13-yard Kindred run with 9:16 remaining. Oroville’s Sean DeWitte recovered on onside kick, but W-P’s defense kept the Hornets from getting any closer.
“We had some moments tonight,” Hutchinson said. “Tanner and Luke especially had excellent games.”
Oroville (6-5) loses just two seniors to graduation, so hopes are high for a deeper playoff run next year.
“I’m really happy (with the season),” Kindred said. “We grew a lot. We’re only losing Angel (Camacho) and Scotty (Frazier), so we’re really looking forward to next year.”
Waitsburg-Prescott (10-1) continues its playoff run with a quarterfinal matchup at Reardan this weekend.
The Central Washington League’s other two teams were also eliminated from the playoffs as Reardan edged league champ Kittitas 20-14 and White Swan lost 42-18 to DeSales.
The Caribou Trail League’s newest member is also the last team standing as Quincy ousted Zillah in the 1A playoffs 29-10 on Friday.
League champion Cashmere was upset 48-6 by Cle Elum after league co-MVP Moe Roberts was unable to play after getting injured the previous week and star quarterback Casey Ruether was hurt in the first quarter of that game. Cascade, which was demolished early in the season by Royal, fared even worse in their playoff rematch on Friday to the tune of a 70-14 beat down.
Quincy plays at River View in this weekend’s 1A state quarterfinal.