Columbia High overcame fumbles on three of its first four possessions to post a 28-14 season-opening victory over Goldendale there last Friday.
Jenson Ladiges, who missed all of 2007 due to injury, ran for a career-high 267 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins' non-league win, which snapped CHS's two-game losing streak in the intra-county series.
Luis Roque added 122 yards and a score on 11 carries as Columbia tallied 386 yards on the ground and 395 overall against the Timberwolves, who yielded touchdowns on CHS scoring drives of 23, 88, 80 and 64 yards.
Defensively, Columbia held Goldendale to 261 total yards, intercepted three passes, and recovered a Timberwolves fumble at its 2-yard line with less than 9 minutes remaining in the second quarter and Goldendale leading, 6-0.
Kevin Kreps led CHS's opposition with seven solo tackles and an interception. Ladiges and Carlos Mendoza each got in on 10 tackles, and Connor Warner and William Nybroten both picked off passes.
Bruins Coach Matt Whitmire said CHS's performance against Goldendale, though imperfect in many ways, offered the team something to build on in the lead-up to tomorrow night's non-league home opener against Heppner, Ore.
"The bad of it was, we didn't play particularly good football last Friday, but the good of it was that we ran for almost 400 yards and won the game," Whitmire noted. "We'll take the result but we know we can play better than we showed."
Columbia's offense moved the ball at will against Goldendale's defense, starting with runs of 12 and 15 yards by Ladiges to the Timberwolves' 25-yard line on the Bruins' opening series.
But, just as they would on two of their next three possessions, the Bruins lost the handle to the football and the Timberwolves recovered.
Goldendale's second fumble recovery came at CHS's 35-yard line with 5:38 to go in the first quarter and set up the game's first scoring drive.
After falling on his own fumble of a first-down snap, quarterback Austin Ross marched the Timberwolves into the end zone in seven more plays.
On the eighth play of the series, Ross kept the ball when his receiver failed to get open and scored from 5 yards out on a dive with 1:19 left in the opening period.
Ross nearly engineered another first-half scoring drive for Goldendale that would have put the Timberwolves up by at least two touchdowns going into the halftime intermission.
With nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, Goldendale collected a CHS fumble at the Bruins' 15. A play later--a pass good for 13 yards from Ross to Cole Cameron--the Timberwolves lined up first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
But, for the second time in the half, Goldendale fumbled the snap and this time a Columbia player came up with the free ball.
That defensive stop, noted Whitmire, was the first of two turning points in the game. "We dodged a bullet there. Had they scored and gone up by two touchdowns, I'm not sure we would have been able to come back on them," he said.
The Bruins made sure they didn't as Ladiges scored from the 1-yard line with 12 seconds left in the first half, then ran for the 2-point conversion to give CHS an 8-6 edge.
Columbia got its hands on the football late in the half when Warner picked off an errant third-down pass and returned it to Goldendale's 23. The Bruins covered the distance to the end zone in six plays, in a minute and nine seconds.
On the first play of the second half, Ladiges put CHS ahead, 14-6, with an 88-yard touchdown run that followed a poorly executed kickoff return.
The Bruins clung to their lead until the 7:04 mark of the third quarter, when Torey Spaulding hit paydirt for the Timberwolves on the 11th play of a 73-yard drive and Ross passed to John Bartkowski for the game-tying conversion.
Columbia countered in kind, however, reeling off gains on eight of 10 plays before CHS's offensive line sprang Roque loose for a 45-yard scoring run with 48 seconds left in the third period.
The key play in the 11-play, 80-yard drive was quarterback Andy Pate's 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-inches that kept the drive alive at Goldendale's 46-yard line.
Columbia took a two-score lead midway through the fourth quarter, with Ladiges rushing 6 yards for his third TD of the night, on the seventh play of a 64-yard movement.
The Bruins' three second-half scoring drives were exactly what Whitmire and his coaching staff had in mind when they developed their game plan for Goldendale.
"Even with our turnovers in the first half, we were moving the ball and picking up big chunks of yardage," Whitmire said. "In the second half, we came out and took care of the ball, and took care of business."
In Week Two of the 2008 season, Columbia High hosts Heppner, Ore., tomorrow night at Bruins Stadium. Kickoff for CHS's home opener is set for 7 p.m.
Noted Whitmire: "We're playing a much better team this week. Heppner has been in Oregon's Class 2A championship game in two of the last three years. They run the Single Wing offense to near perfection, so when they have the football, we'll be very lucky if we can figure out who has the ball."
Senior lineman Ryan Nystrom suffered a right shoulder injury against Goldendale; he was scheduled to see an orthopedic specialist this week...Starting fullback/linebacker Ty Plummer also was injured in the season opener...Starting center Reyes Sanchez (back injury) did not suit up for last Friday's game...
Against Goldendale, Columbia had 22 players--more than half its roster--in uniform...Whitmire said the Bruins used nine different offensive linemen against the Timberwolves.