Fast forward one year, the Cou-gars and the Tigers met once again, but this time in Quincy, not Wenat-chee, and with a spot in the State 1B semifinals was on the line.
The fifth-ranked Cougars trailed 26-12 midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s contest but had the fourth-rated Tigers in retreat as they drove the ball deep into Entiat’s territory.
Then, LWK lost the player they could least afford to lose, senior running back/linebacker Brandon Montoya, to a knee injury.
The Cougars adjusted but, in the final issue, they couldn’t overcome Montoya’s untimely injury and the well-rested Tigers went on to post a 48-12 victory.
Montoya, who last month earn-ed a full scholarship offer from Eastern Washington University’s football program, left the game after scoring both of LWK’s touchdowns and rushing for 115 yards on eight carries in less than half a game.
“The Cougars were marching down the field when Brandon caught a pass from Cruz [Mont-oya] and was breaking tackles when he planted to juke the last player before the touchdown and his right knee buckled,” Cougars Coach Antoine Montoya said. “At that point we went to Plan B with [sophomores] Tyler Kroeskop at fullback and Aaron Smith at running back.”
Montoya said the Cougars had promising drives both before and after their star player went to the bench for the rest of the game.
Junior wide receiver Robbie Dorr helped fill the void, nabbing four passes for 72 yards.
“Our defense was still doing a great job and we were still moving the ball on them without Brandon but we just couldn’t punch it in [the end zone],” Montoya said. “We came close a few more times in the second half before turning the ball over on downs.”
Defensive end Kroeskop (10 to-tal tackles), senior lineman Hunter Clack (eight tackles), and Dorr (seven tackles, one fumble recovery) were among LWK’s defensive standouts.
Entiat seized the momentum at the git-go. The Tigers recovered a game-opening onside kick and scored a touchdown one play later on a pass.
The Tigers scored on their second possession, too, and pumped up their lead to 20-0 before LWK’s defense finally stepped up and got a stop at its 8-yard line.
LWK “capitalized” on the field position and got on the scoreboard with a 90-yard touchdown run by Brandon Montoya on an outside sweep. Once Montoya hit the after burners, the Tigers had no chance of catching the three-time State sprint champion.
The Cougars regained possession early in the second quarter and put together another scoring drive that pulled them within 20-12. A 46-yard pass from Cruz Mon-toya to Smith set up a 10-yard TD run by Brandon Montoya.
Entiat countered with its fourth scoring drive to push the lead to 26-12 with 7 minutes left in the first half.
LWK’s next possession ended in an interception when Cruz Mon-toya got hit while throwing. The Cougars defense got the ball back after forcing the Tigers to punt.
Cruz Montoya got the sticks mo-ving again with pass completions to Smith and Brandon Montoya before the latter got hurt.
“Once Brandon went down, yes, it was deflating but we knew we still had a good team so we did what we could,” Montoya said.
Entiat tacked on three 6-pointers and a pair of 2-point conversions and shut out LWK in the second half to avenge last year’s loss.
“We felt great about this game going into it. Even during the game we still felt we had a chance, even though we came out flat and they scored on their first two possessions. It was kind of a shocking moment,” Montoya said.
Entiat (10-2, with one win by forfeit) plays the No. 1 Odessa Tigers (11-0) on Saturday in Moses Lake for a berth in the 1B championship game. In the other semifinal, it’ll be the No. 2 Naselle Comets against the No. 3 Almira/Coulee-Hartline Warriors in Tumwater.
The State championship game will be played Dec. 7 in Tacoma at Mt. Tahoma High School.
LWK will be watching and wondering what could have been while still enjoying the fruits of their 2019 labors.
“We had one heck of a season,” Montoya said. “We ended up 9-3 and were the Southeast League’s undefeated champion.”
The nature of his knee injury is still being assessed following initial x-rays on Monday, according to his coach/father.
“His knee is swollen but we’re hopeful,” Antoine Montoya said.