WARDEN – Oroville’s football playoff fortunes were dealt a severe blow when the injured C.J. Mathews was unable to suit up for Friday’s first round contest at Warden.
It didn’t get any better. Linebacker Leo Delgado hurt his ankle and left the field in an ambulance on the Hornets’ first defensive play from scrimmage to further set the tone for the night and a sharp Warden squad did the rest, sending Oroville home for the season with a 34-2 loss.
Warden seemed to have the shutout in hand until the final play of the game, when Luke Kindred tackled Cougars’ punter Orlando Alba in the end zone for a safety and the Hornets’ only points.
The Hornets were done in by a Warden offense that boasted a disciplined line, a dual-threat quarterback in Trent Bates and do-it-all running back Adam Hansen.
With Mathews and Tanner Smith – who combined for all but six of the Hornets pass receptions this season – on the shelf with injuries, the Cougars were free to focus solely on stopping Oroville’s rushing attack. That made Nicky Perez’s 139 yard rushing effort (on 31 carries) all the more impressive, as most of his yards came after being hit by one or more defenders.
Perez accounted for all but 29 yards of the Hornets’ offense and still had enough energy on defense to get in on 12 tackles and force a fumble.
The Hornets managed to move the ball in the first half, holding the ball for more than 10 plays on two drives that ultimately came up empty.
Warden’s Conrad Ruge put the Cougars on the board with 8:09 left in the first quarter with an 18-yard run, and Bates hit Hansen for a 29-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Hansen’s 7-yard run with four minutes left in the half put the Hornets in a three-touchdown hole, but they had a chance to get back in the game after Warden’s first special teams blunder of the night. With 11 seconds left in the half, the Cougars’ punter dropped the snap, then put his knee to the turf while retrieving the ball.
The Hornets got the ball on the Warden 10-yard line, but with time to run just two plays weren’t able to take advantage of the Cougars’ gift.
Bates, who tossed just one pass in the first half, threw the ball on all eight of the Cougars’ plays on their first drive of the third quarter, completing four for 60 yards. Hansen’s 15-yard touchdown catch capped the drive.
Bates added a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ernesto Orozco midway through the third quarter.
The Hornets didn’t pick up a first down in the second half until their final possession, which ended on the Warden 11-yard line and set up the final-play safety.
Matt Egerton also was in on 12 total tackles as the Hornets finished the season at 6-4. Warden (7-3) hits the road for a state playoff opener at Colfax.
In other playoff games involving CWL teams, White Swan beat Warden 61-27 in a battle of the Central Washington League’s top two seeds. Both teams will advance to the 2B state tournament this weekend. Brewster also advanced to state by eliminating Soap Lake 52-26. Manson (5-4) will host Lind/Ritzville/Sprague on Friday, Nov. 11, while Brewster (7-3) travels to top-ranked Waitsburg-Prescott on Saturday, Nov. 12.
In non-playoff crossovers, Kittitas blanked Entiat 40-0 and Waterville defeated Bridgeport 25-6.