Fumbles doom Hornets at Kittitas

KITTITAS – If there is one area football team that must know how the Houston Texans feel today, it’s probably the Oroville Hornets.

Like the Texans against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the Hornets dominated the Coyotes every which way on Friday, Sept. 27.

But somehow it was Kittitas, much like the Seahawks, celebrating a ridiculously improbable 20-13 victory in the first Central Washington 2B League game for both teams.

Midway through the third quarter the Hornets had outgained the Coyotes 200-32, yet trailed 8-6.

The success Oroville enjoyed moving the ball and the intense pressure the Hornets applied on Kittitas quarterback Chance Forman went for naught: four second half fumbles, three dropped passes, two very costly penalties and a curious stretch of officiating late in the first half offset it all.

That and a partridge in a pear tree will get you a loss.

The Hornets had forced the Coyotes into their fifth straight three-and-out to open the third quarter. Luke Kindred capped a six-play, 69-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for the game’s initial score, and the Hornets forced Kittitas to punt again.

Dustin Nigg, who overall had a stellar night on both sides of the ball (98 yards rushing on 17 carries, solid pass defense and a 50-yard punt to pin Kittitas inside its own 10), was breaking loose along the right sideline when the Coyotes’ Colton Forman stripped him of the ball from behind and took off in the opposite direction, scoring on a 42-yard fumble return to tie the score. The ensuing 2-pointer gave the Coyotes the lead.

After the Hornets’ second fumble, Kittitas hit on its only big play of the night – a 66-yard pass from Forman to Elijah Eilers while Nigg, who would have defended on the play, was taking a brief breather on the sideline.

Kittitas followed that with an 85-yard drive that ended with a Joey Pemberton touchdown run to make it 20-6. That score might not have happened at all if not for an Oroville running-into-the-kicker penalty on a Kittitas punt. With Chance Forman, the Coyote punter as well as their quarterback, scrambling after a bad snap, two Hornets dove in to try to recover the loose ball. But Forman picked it up in time to get a kick away, only to have the defenders roll into him and draw the penalty.

Forman was injured on the play and didn’t return to the game, but the Coyotes got a first down (erasing a long Tanner Smith punt return) and finished that drive with a 14-point lead with 7:45 left in the game.

The Hornets responded quickly, with Sean DeWitte ripping off a 25-yard run, when the ball was punched 10 feet in the air and hauled down by the Coyotes.

Other than on their 85-yard drive and the one 66-yard pass play, Kittitas didn’t pick up a first down in the entire second half. So after yet another three-and-out, the Hornets still had five minutes to get back in the game.

But Kittitas’ penchant for punching at the ball, rather than tackling the Hornet ballcarriers, paid off one last time with under four minutes ago when Brian Wise, who had just caught a Kindred pass and was lunging for the goal line, had the ball knocked out from behind and into the end zone for a touchback.

Kindred, who rushed for 110 yards on 17 carries but was just 6-of-18 passing as the Coyotes often kept six men in the secondary, connected with Smith for a 45-yard gain in the final minute. Kindred scored from three yards out with 16 seconds left. Nigg’s ensuing onside kick bounced past Kittitas’ first line of defenders, but the Hornets weren’t able to catch up with it in time to make the recovery.

Kindred finished with 10 tackles and two assists; Jake Scott had four tackles and three assists; Smith had five tackles and an assist; Charles Arrigoni had three tackles and an assist; and Joe Sarmiento had an interception that ended Kittitas’ first possession of the game.

Despite not scoring in the first half, the had several scoring opportunities and completely stifled Kittitas after the Coyotes gained 30 yards on their first two plays.

A block in the back penalty negated a 30-yard Kindred run that would have given the Hornets a first down inside the Kittitas 20 late in the first quarter.

Hutchinson took issue with a pair of calls late in the half that proved costly. With less than a minute to go in the half, Kindred ran out of bounds after rushing for a first down, but the officials failed to stop the clock, forcing Oroville to take a time out.

On the next play, DeWitte was run into and pulled down by a Kittitas defender while trying to catch a deep Kindred pass down the middle, but no call was made.

Hutchinson drew two flags for his vociferous (though profanity-free) protests, though the officials declared the second flag a generic bench foul that kept Hutchinson from being ejected.

The Hornets (2-1, 0-1 Central Washington League) host winless Manson on Oct. 4.