Clutch catches, kicking, special teams lead to win for ML
Cardinals recover late squib kick to help secure 22-16 win
By PAUL DELANEY
Medical Lake head football coach Wes Hobbs will be the first one to tell you his team's kicking game could use a jolt.
Last Friday night a portion of that aspect of the game worked perfectly, late at least, as the Cardinals (2-0) scored another thrilling 22-16 non-league football win over visiting Bonners Ferry at Holliday Field.
Following his 44-yard touchdown toss to Kasey Kelly for the tie-breaking points with just 3:24 to play, senior quarterback Adam Paulson, who doubles as Medical Lake's place kicker and punter, executed the perfectly drawn up play to return the ball to his offense.
Or did he?
“We sure didn't call for an onside kick, but what we did, we did what we wanted to do,” Hobbs said. “The fact that it appeared like an onside kick was it hit that guy square in the eyes.”
As the ball caromed off the hands of the Badgers' up man at about the 50-yard-line, a swarm of Medical Lake players pounced on the ball. They recovered and let the Cards carefully run out the clock with a drive that ended on the Bonners Ferry 2 in the usual kneel-down “victory formation.”
“We just didn't want to give them good field position, we never dreamed it would go off that guy in the front row,” Hobbs said. “We were fortunate to get on the ball and ice the game away.”
The plan was simply to squib kick, a worm-burner and hit it as hard as Paulson could, Hobbs explained. “The idea, with a six-point lead, was to make it difficult to return.”
To many at Holliday Field in Friday night's home opener, the Cardinals' offense looked sluggish and off its marks.
But Hobbs disagreed.
“We struggled maybe a little bit,” he said. “We felt, internally, that our passing game and a couple of other little things actually took off when we really needed it.”
Medical Lake's first touchdown can be credited to the defense that had pinned the Badgers inside their own 10. Harrison Cochran would take advantage of a high snap on the punt and race in to block the kick while Logan Drinkard would recover for ML's first score, just 10 seconds into the second quarter.
Paulson would hit Steven Velasquez for the two-point conversion and the Cards took an 8-0 lead to the locker room at the half.
Bonners Ferry would tie it on a 5-yard Zach Wilson run with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter. The Cards' Seth Hansen put his team back in the lead with 4:04 to go in the third with his run on a delayed handoff and Paulson's run pushed ML into a 16-8 lead.
The Badgers would launch a time-consuming drive that started on their own 36. The possession ended the third quarter and spanned into the fourth. Aided by a personal foul penalty that kept the drive alive, Bonners Ferry used a punishing running game to drive to the Medical Lake 1 before Josh Pluid powered over with 9:38 remaining.
Pluid added the 2-point conversion on the run and things were all tied at 16.
Following a three and out, Medical Lake's defense stymied Bonners Ferry near midfield. A punt stuck the Cardinals on their own 10 where Paulson went to work with a careful mix of pass and run plays that marched his team just past midfield.
“If you look at some of the key downs, we hit them for some 6, 7-yard gains when we really needed it,” Hobbs said in defense of his offense that had 303 total yards, 204 on the ground.
Paulson found a wide-open Kelly who had snuck behind the coverage 3:24 into the fourth, running untouched into the end zone. The Cards held on from there.
Paulson was a careful 5-for-10 passing for 99 yards, but no interceptions. Kelly had four catches for 90 of those yards. Micah Tappero had 19 carries for 108 yards while Velasquez, who joined the team for the first time this week to see his first game action added 66 yards.
“We really pressed the line of scrimmage and that's what we stung them so bad on that play-action pass for the game–winning touchdown,” Hobbs said.
Medical Lake's defense held Bonners Ferry (0-3) to 158 total yards, but just 11 through the air.
“As long as we have more points on the board then them, I'll trade 500 yards of offense,” Hobbs said.
The Cardinals now begin league play with a Friday contest at Newport (0-1), which lost 27-24 to cross-border rival Priest River last week. Hobbs calls the Grizzlies a “very athletic team,” and we'll “be playing in the tall timber,” for the contest that has a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.