Lyle/Wishram/Klickitat parlayed a 16-0 first quarter lead last Friday into its first state 11-man football tournament berth.
The Cougars play the 10-0 Liberty Lancers on Saturday on the Lancers’ home field in Spangle. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.
“We need to just go out and play Cougar football,” said Cougars Coach Antoine Montoya. “It’s going to be a rough game, but we’re game. It’s win or go home.”
LWK held a 16-0 lead after one quarter of its winner-to-state play-in game against visiting Oroville, and 32-16 at halftime on their way to a 32-22 victory.
Senior quarterback Jeramiah Ostrander passed for three touchdowns and scored three of LWK’s four 2-point conversion tries.
Sophomore running back Brandon Montoya rushed for 216 yards and one score, and caught an Ostrander pass for another TD.
Junior Sam McCullough pulled in a pair of receiving touchdowns. Both came in-side the final 5 minutes of the opening quarter.
McCullough and Montoya also turned in strong performances on the defensive side of scrimmage.
McCullough led the Cougars with 11 total tackles and also registered one of LWK’s four quarterback sacks.
Montoya had 10 total tackles to go with a sack and one of two Cougars interceptions in the first half.
All told, LWK out-gained Oroville in yards from scrimmage, 478-273, and averaged 9.2 yards per play compared to 4.4 per play for Oroville.
The Cougars maintained leads of 8-16 points en route to their sixth consecutive victory, and seventh in their last eight games after starting the year 0-2, with back-to-back home losses.
“Our game plan is always to set the tone on defense, go out and see how they react to certain things on offense,” said Montoya.
LWK posted its first points on a 4th-and-20 pass play from Oroville’s 34-yard line.
Ostrander under-threw his intended target, McCullough, who had gotten free behind a pair of Hornets defenders.
The defenders collided in their pursuit of the pass, knocking each other off and tipping the ball into the air and forward, toward McCullough, who reached out and snagged it in both hands.
McCullough stumbled but regained his balance and sprinted into the end zone before Oroville could recover to give LWK a 6-0 lead at 4:50 of the first quarter.
The Cougars caught a big break on the 2-point conversion try. The nearest official to the play raised his arms to signal Ostrander’s pass to Reco Quintero was good, though sideline observers agreed both of the receiver’s feet came down outside the end line. No matter, as LWK stunted Oroville momentum with big scoring plays that kept the pressure on the Hornets.
Just over 3 minutes after LWK’s first scoring drive, McCullough hauled in an Ostrander pass for a 24-yard receiving touchdown. Ostrander’s run for the 2-point conversion put the Cougars on top, 16-0, at the 1:33 mark.
The Cougars were driving for another touchdown in the second quarter, but Oroville’s Seth Miller picked off an overthrow down the middle in Hornets territory and made a good return to near midfield.
Oroville used a balanced scheme to move the ball into LWK territory. When it got within scoring distance, the Hornets went run heavy.
On the final play of the drive, Oroville’s 215-pound senior fullback, Zane Scott, put his head down and ram-med his way between center and right guard and into the end zone with 5:15 left in the first half.
The pass for the conversion pulled the Hornets within 16-8 with plenty of time left on the clock.
LWK countered with a 55-yard touchdown run by Montoya. He took the pitch from Ostrander, swept right, and outran pursuing defenders for a 6-pointer that help-ed boost the Cougars’ advantage to 24-8 with just under 3 minutes to go in the half.
The teams traded touchdowns inside the final 40 seconds. Scott scored from the 3 with 37 second left to help the Hornets get within 24-16 and keep their small hive of fans buzzing. (The Oroville contingent from north-central Washington, traveled 336 miles for the game. It’s about a six-hour trip, if done in a day.)
The 8 points, moreover, came at a time when the Hornets needed to produce a scoring drive, to keep LWK from grinding up possession time.
LWK got the ball back with around 30 seconds on the clock. It only needed about 10 of those seconds to tally a fourth first-half touchdown.
Montoya ran a swing route down the sideline and got open behind Oroville’s secondary. Ostrander heaved the ball from around his 40 toward Montoya, but it didn’t have enough distance.
An Oroville defender set up to intercept the pass but the ball slipped right through his hands and into the waiting hands of Montoya.
Ostrander bulled his way into the end zone for his third 2-pointer and a 32-16 Cougars halftime lead.
A turnover and penalties slowed LWK’s offense in the second half.
The Cougars lost a fumble on 1st-and-10 from the Oroville 15 with 3 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
On another drive, LWK muffed a couple of backfield hand-offs that cost it yardage and momentum.
LWK’s defense (mostly the same guys who played offense) bent some but didn’t break. The Cougars continued to limit the effectiveness of the Hornets’ offense outside the 5-yard line.
The Cougars harassed Hornets junior quarterback Anthony Jamison all night whenever he dropped back to pass. The rush led to numerous hurried passes, the aforementioned four sacks, and losses of big yardage.
Oroville (5-5) produced the only scoring drive of the second half. Jamison got the touchdown on a 4th-and-7 run from LWK’s 14 with 2:41 left on the clock. The pass for conversion failed and left the Hornets with a two-score deficit to make up.