By PAUL DELANEY
The last time the Medical Lake Cardinals visited St. Maries they came away stunned on the wrong end of a 28-27 loss where the hometown Lumberjacks scored the winning points on a broken play with no time remaining.
Last Friday night in the return visit it was the Cards time to issue some payback.
Micah Tappero's 5-yard touchdown run with 1:07 to play and Adam Paulson's run for a 2-point conversion pushed Medical Lake into a 33-32 lead. But it was Kasey Kelly's sensational 70-yard interception return of a Matt Feasline pass with 13 seconds to play that completed a rally and sealed the Cardinals' 39-32 win.
The need to go consistently go for 2-point conversions came as result of not having a kicking game, Cardinals' head coach Wes Hobbs said. So he inserted a run-pass option for the point after conversions and Paulson walked into the end zone at the pylon to put his team ahead for the first time with just 63 seconds to play. “He did a great job there,” Hobbs said of his senior quarterback.
The game began as positively for the Lumberjacks (1-1) and it ended for the Cardinals. On their first play of the game Feasline connected with Leighton Gertje for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just 48 seconds gone.
Medical Lake tried their best to dig themselves into an even bigger hole by fumbling the ball away on the second possession. “They're trying to go and make it 14-0 and our defense held,” Hobbs said. “We just made some nice little stands through the game.”
Tappero, who moved from halfback to fullback prior to the game, had 26 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns to lead a punishing ground attack that rolled up 314 yards. Seth Hansen added 92 yards and a pair of scores - one on a pass reception - on seven carries while Taylor Masteller chipped in with 85 yards on nine touches.
“For us to have that balanced of an attack by those three guys yardage-wise, that's what you strive for,” Hobbs said. “You know things are going well when three guys (each) rush for almost 100 yards.”
After tossing a pair of interceptions in the first half Paulson and Hobbs had a little chat. “He had a good second half, he just commanded the offense, made some good choices, ball handing.” Paulson finished 12-of-18 for 126 yards and a touchdown pass.
“The big thing is we kept responding every time,” Hobbs said. “We went in tied 13-13 at the half and just couldn't get past them.”
Until it really counted of course.
Feasline had impressive numbers going 19-of-33 for 332 yards. It's his last pass he'd have loved to have back of course.
Kelly, finally fully healed after off-season knee surgery, actually made two big plays in that final two minutes. He also caught an Adam Paulson pass of fourth down to get the ball down to the first, setting up Tappero's score with 1:07 to play. “He had a good ball from Adam,” Hobbs said of the conversion.
St. Maries had one more shot but Kelly made sure there would not be the same drama of the Lumberjacks' Houdini-like escape win in 2010. “He took it in stride and went the distance for a touchdown,” Hobbs said.
“He had a cushion on the kid and kept eyeballing the quarterback and broke on the ball,” Hobbs said. “Kasey's that kind of kid who has a good nose for the football. Sometimes you just can't teach that.”
St. Maries had come off a big win over Kellogg the week before so Hobbs' message was simple: “We told the kids to trust in their blocking rules and technique.”
That helped the Cardinals go toe to toe with the 'Jacks and on the strength of Tappero's first of three TDs, a 5-yard run with 4:30 to play in the first quarter, and Seth Hansen's 20-yard pass from Paulson in the final minute of the half sent the teams to the locker room tied at 13.
The size of the St. Maries lines – 250-275 pounds tackle to tackle – was a big concern for Hobbs who threw a bunch of brand new players their way to try to make a difference.
“We had a very young offensive line; I don't know if we had one returning varsity starter, or someone who consistently started the year before,” Hobbs said. “So a lot of people had to step up and play well.”
After Feasline engineered two scores to break the halftime tie, hitting D.J. Turner for 70 yards on the first play of the second half and then scoring himself with 16 seconds to play in the third quarter, St. Maries regained a 26-13 lead.
Hansen collected his second touchdown, this one an 18-yard run with 7:14 to play in the third and helped keep the Cards close.
Defensively, Harrison Cochran had a notable outing at linebacker, Hobbs said. Cochran had been a center, but like other Cardinal linemen on either side of the ball, Hobbs feels all are versatile. “From tackle to tackle, basically in our opinion they're the same guy,” Hobbs said.
This Friday, Sept. 7, the Cardinals face an 0-2 Bonners Ferry team that lost 40-7 at home to Lethbridge Collegiate Institute out of Alberta. The Badgers fell in their opener, 14-6 on the road at Libby, Mont. Aug. 25. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Holliday Field.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.