Elijah Farmen's three interceptions help Medical Lake roll over Rams 42-6 for first 4-0 start in a decade
By PAUL DELANEY
After racing to a big victory the week before over Newport in the start of Northeast A League play, the Medical Lake Cardinals showed up last Friday for their Holliday Field game against Riverside with their offensive engine sputtering and in need of a tune-up.
“We just weren't quite firing on all cylinders that first quarter,” head coach Wes Hobbs said.
But sophomore linebacker Elijah Farmen's second of an eventual three interceptions seemed to fix that miss and get the motor running right as Medical Lake ultimately rolled to a 42-6 win for their fourth straight victory and first 4-0 start since 2003.
After watching their first drive end on the Riverside 25 with a fumble, and a second with a three-and-out, Farmen's first interception stopped a Rams' drive that had reached the Medical Lake 24.
While that didn't fix things immediately when the Cardinals' subsequent drive ended ironically with Farmen's dropped pass on third down, he did get his hands firmly on an Andrew Kramer pass in the next series for the second theft.
Nine plays later, and following a Medical Lake penalty that set up a fourth-and-seven at the Riverside 7, Cardinals' quarterback Adam Paulson found Seth Hansen wide open in the left flat and the senior raced untouched into the end zone for a 6-0 lead with 4:57 remaining in the half following a missed try for point.
“That was right on the borderline of being out of our comfort zone,” Hobbs said of the decision to go for it on fourth down.
Riverside would get pinned deep in their own territory on their next possession and a third-down play would turn disastrous as the snap sailed over Kramer's head and out of the end zone for a safety and an 8-0 Cardinals' lead 37 seconds after the touchdown.
The resulting free kick gave Medical Lake possession on the Riverside 40 and keyed by Austin Garza's 25-yard catch and run. The Cardinals made it 14 points in just 2 minutes, 39 seconds when Steven Velasquez made up for his fumble on the first series by dashing eight yards for a touchdown with 2:18 to play in the half.
And just when the Rams (1-1, 1-3) didn't need to see Farmen on the field, there he was again picking up his third interception of the half with 30 seconds to play. On Medical Lake's next touch of the ball Hansen ran down the left sideline for 34 yards and the Cards' third score in less than five minutes. Paulson's pass to Kasey Kelly made it a 22-0 game.
Not content to just do the kneel-down drill in the final 19 seconds of a disaster-filled quarter, Riverside's replacement quarterback Sam Zanoni launched his pass right into the arms of Harrison Cochran for the fourth interception of the half.
“We were making it difficult on ourselves,” Hobbs said looking back at the slow start. “We just kept putting ourselves in the wrong down and distance.”
Riverside opened the second half driving as deep as the Medical Lake 20 – surviving Farmen's trap on what would have been his fourth pick.
“We just kept getting great play after great play on defense,” Hobbs said, pointing to Farmen's career night.
The Rams' second possession of the half did end in a turnover as Velasquez pounded on a loose ball with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter and three plays later Micah Tappero was gone 56 yards for a touchdown. Following the Cards' first successful kick for an extra point by Hansen, Medical Lake enjoyed a 29-0 lead with 2:28 to play in the third.
It took Riverside just 14 seconds to score their first touchdown on Jacob Collins' 67-yard run, cutting ML's lead to 29-6. But the Cardinals would mount a huge clock-draining drive that would eat up nearly seven minutes, span into the fourth quarter and end with Tappero's second touchdown of the game with 7:07 remaining to up the lead to 36-6.
Dylan Rushfeldt knocked away a fourth-down Rams' pass turning the ball back over on the Riverside 30 with 5:43 to play. Medical Lake was able to insert the No. 2's, which were quite effective as evidenced by Jackson Tappero's 6-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the game.
Riverside would surrender the ball back to Medical Lake after another failed fourth-down conversion try giving Medical Lake a shot at another TD in the closing two minutes. JacksonTappero reeled off a long 35-yard run in the final two minutes but was tripped up at the six on a shoestring tackle by Randy Gordon. Freshman quarterback Cory Wagner and the Cards let the clock run out after that.
Micah Tappero had 24 carries for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hansen also scored twice and added 80 yards on nine carries. Medical Lake dominated time of possession by a 30:02 to 17:58 margin.
“The price of rice is going up,” Hobbs said referring to Friday night's 7 p.m. game at Lakeside where the Cards were crushed 35-7 in their 2011 meeting. That contest was decided early by three turnovers, each leading to Eagles scores. “We're certainly going up there with a different mindset,” Hobbs said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.