The smallest player on the field made the biggest plays Friday night in Stevenson's 27-21 victory over Columbia High on the final weekend of the SWW 1A Trico Division football campaign.
Senior quarterback Kelley Powell--all 5-foot-6, 160 pounds of him--accounted for three touchdowns and 337 of Stevenson's 408 yards of total offense in leading the Bulldogs to the win in their annual North Shore rivalry game with the Bruins.
"He killed us," said Bruins Coach Matt Whitmire, "and, according to their coaches, their receivers brought down some balls they hadn't been catching earlier in the season. Bottom line: The best team on Friday won the game; they made plays when they needed them and we didn't."
Powell passed for 162 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 175 yards and two scores. His favorite receiver was Andrew Olsen, who hauled in six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.
For Columbia (1-4, 4-5), junior wingback Jenson Ladiges rushed for 167 yards and one touchdown on a night the Bruins mustered only 255 yards of total offense and turned the ball over twice.
The first turnover--an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter--proved the most costly.
Trailing 20-14, the Bruins moved the ball from their 44-yard line to Stevenson's 8. Following a timeout with 24 seconds to go, Ladiges tried to get CHS on the scoreboarda third time with an option pass to senior tight end. But Olsen had Pate well covered and came away with an interception in the end zone.
Stevenson (2-3, 3-6) opened the game with seven-play scoring drive that covered 65 yards and concluded with a 4-yard touchdown run by Powell.
The Bruins answered in kind, however, driving 65 yards in 14 plays, in 8 minutes, 20 seconds, and scoring on an 8-yard run by senior wingback Kevin Kreps. Felix Torres kicked the point-after touchdown to knot the score at 7.
Following an exchange of fumbles, Stevenson needed just five plays to go 51 yards for the go-ahead score on a 1-yard run by Powell.
Columbia went three-and-out on its next possession but pinned Stevenson back at its 24 after senior Carlos Mendoza's punt rolled dead.
But the Bulldogs quickly worked the ball down the field with a mix of short passes and quarterback keepers. On the fifth play of the 76-yard movement, Powell hit Olsen for a touchdown with 7:58 remaining in the first half to give Stevenson a 20-7 lead.
Back came the Bruins, though, as senior Luis Roque returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to Stevenson's 20-yard line. Mendoza capped a four-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
The Bulldogs increased their lead to two touchdowns a second time late in the third quarter when Kyler Dudley banged in from the 2 on the ninth play of a 71-yard drive.
Another long kick return--this one by Ladiges--set the Bruins up at Stevenson's 35 with 2:14 left in the third quarter. Ladiges finished the seven-play series with a 1-yard plunge and Torres added the PAT to pull CHS within 27-21 with 10:38 to play in the game.
Columbia's last shot at the victory--and keeping its hope for a winning season alive--came almost three minutes later when the Bruins forced a fumble and recovered at their 11.
After converting on fourth-and-1 at their own 20 (with a 36-yard run by Ladiges), the Bruins moved the ball to Stevenson's 39. But on fourth-and-5, Stevenson stopped Ladiges a yard short of the first-down marker.
The Bulldogs took over at their 35 with 3:21 left, then managed to pick up four first downs to run out the clock.
"They stuffed us when they needed to," Whitmire said of the Bulldogs' final defensive stand. He added: "On paper, these were two evenly matched teams. But in terms of effort on the field, they wanted it more."
Columbia plays Toledo (6-3) there Friday night in the season finale for both teams. Kick off of the SWW 1A crossover game is set for 7 p.m.
"Toledo is a carbon copy of Stevenson. They like to line up with an empty backfield and will pitch the ball all over the yard," Whitmire said. "After last weekend, we can only hope that we learned some things about how to stop this offense."