KETTLE FALLS – Tonasket football coach Jay Hawkins told his team that Friday’s defensive performance was the best he’s seen a Tiger team put forth in several seasons.
It would be hard to argue after the Bulldogs put together just one solid drive despite having most of its key offensive players back from a team that won at Tonasket last year. The Tigers held Kettle to 220 yards of offense, 70 of which came on the Bulldogs’ second possession of the game and resulted in their only score as Tonasket rolled, 26-6.
“Our defense was really solid,” Hawkins said. “They have a few good athletes, and athletically they’re better than Bridgeport was (last week). I thought as the game wore on, we wore them down.”
Running back Brandon Thomas broke off four quick runs to move the Bulldogs all 70 yards on that one drive that pulled Kettle to within 7-6 midway through the first quarter and had the game looking like it would be a shootout.
But the Tigers adjusted and held him to just 52 yards over the final three quarters.
“He was pretty shifty,” Hawkins said. “We were sort of scrambling around and over-pursued their little inside counter, but once the guys started staying home we forced him to bump outside. And we were able to pressure their quarterback, too.”
That pressure helped the Tigers pick off a pair of Connor McKern passes in the second quarter, both leading to scores. Jeff Stedtfeld’s second quarter pick gave the Tigers the ball at the Kettle 45 and set up Michael Orozco’s 26-yard touchdown run.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, defensive lineman Chad Edwards intercepted a tipped pass. Four plays later, Orozco took a short pass from Stedtfeld and raced 46 yards for the score and a 20-6 halftime lead.
The offense put together a solid performance as well. The thunder-and-lightning running back duo of Austin Booker and Orozco combined for 225 yards rushing as both eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Starting quarterback Trevor Terris added 63 yards, including a 31-yard bootleg run for a touchdown to open the scoring and cap a 70-yard opening drive for the Tigers.
“He made a great fake,” Hawkins said. “Trevor pretty much just waltzed in, he was so wide open.”
Booker added a 1-yard plunge to finish off a 14-play, seven minute drive in the third quarter that was highlighted by Orozco’s 20-yard run on a fake punt.
Hawkins’ major concern coming out of the game was the Tigers’ penalties in the second half. Tonasket was flagged seven times in the final quarter and a half, twice killing promising offensive drives and on defense erasing an interception. Their only turnover also came in the fourth quarter.
“It’s hard to overcome those when you’re a run-first team,” Hawkins said. “We need to keep ourselves in good down-and-distance situations. But our defense saved us.”
The Tigers (2-0) lead off Caribou Trail League play on Friday, Sept. 14, at home against Brewster (2-0), which started the season with a 21-6 win at Oroville and a 54-0 thrashing of Manson. Brewster shared the Central Washington 2B League title with those two teams last year but is back in the CTL after a two-year absence.
“It’s going to get tougher as we go,” Hawkins said. “But these games are good confidence builders. The guys are upbeat. It was real solid second game effort.”