Medical Lake got a chance for a do-over last Friday.
The Cardinals went on the road and took a 28-14 Northeast A League football victory over Kettle Falls, putting a damper on the Bulldogs’ Homecoming, much like Chewelah did two weeks ago with their 33-28 win in Medical Lake’s Homecoming and Hall-of-Fame game.
With the one-two punch of seniors Micah Tappero and Seth Hansen providing the offense, Medical Lake scored the game’s first touchdown on their initial possession and then the last two TDs, never trailing in the contest.
In the battle of the newest league members, the Cards improved their record to 4-1 in NEA play and 6-1 overall while Kettle Falls remained winless at 0-4 and 0-6.
“They ran a Power-I at us all night long,” Medical Lake head coach Wes Hobbs said. “We knew that was coming but we didn’t think they would steal a page out of our playbook and dominate the clock as much as they did.”
That changed Medical Lake’s approach, he explained. “We ended up keeping it on the ground much of the night ourselves,” Hobbs said. “We were kind of waiting each other out and see who was going to make the first mistake.”
That may have belonged to the Bulldogs, who watched the Cardinals move down the field in just under three minutes with Tappero scoring from 2 yards out with 9 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Hansen’s kick made it 7-0.
Kettle Falls burned close to five minutes in their next drive, culminated by Austin Anderson’s 1-yard run to trim it to a 7-6 game at the 4:22 mark.
“We scored on our first possession and they had a real long drive, run after run after run,” Hobbs said.
Hansen and Anderson traded second quarter scores with the Bulldogs getting a 2-point run on the point-after to battle to a 14-14 tie with 3:59 remaining.
But that’s all the home team had.
“We held them on downs and forced them to punt,” Hobbs said as he described the lead-up to the go-ahead score that gave the Cardinals the lead for good. “Adam (Paulson) threw a beautiful pass to Kasey Kelly for 28 yards, a deep one we got loose on and then we had a couple of penalties go our way, we were right down and (then) it was the last play of the half.”
With just five seconds remaining and Medical Lake facing a fourth-down, Hobbs said he elected to go for better odds of six versus what has been an off and on kicking game.
“We went for it and once again it was a well-designed play that shook the kid loose and Adam laid it right in there,” Hobbs said as he described the play to Hansen that proved to ultimately be the deciding points as time ran out. Tappero added a run for a 2-point conversion and the Cards went to the locker room with a 22-14 lead.
The halftime break allowed for some adjustments on defense and that allowed Medical Lake to shut down, and shut out the Bulldogs over the final two quarters.
“We had to get off the ball better on defense,” Hobbs said. “They were beating us off the ball.”
Hobbs attributed his team’s sluggish start to the nearly 100-mile, 2-hour bus ride, their longest of the year. “Defensively, we were just not in sync off the get-go,” Hobbs said. “That all changed in the second half.”
The second half difference, Hobbs said, “Was getting off our rump and going.”
Medical Lake would wrap up scoring with Tappero’s second touchdown, a 1-yard run with just 49 seconds to play in the third quarter. His 28-carry, 157-yard effort pushed Tappero’s totals to 15 touchdowns and 963 yards.
Steven Velasquez added 67 more yards, plus an interception. Hansen, who also had an interception, added 43 yards to the 313 total the Cardinals collected.
The Cardinals threw sparingly mainly by design as Paulson went 3 for 10 with a touchdown and an interception. But those numbers did not do justice to Paulson, Hobbs said. “He hit a couple of kids right in the numbers and they dropped them.
“Adam had a good night, he ran the team well, he threw the ball well,” Hobbs said.
Medical Lake gets the week off with a bye as they try to heal and prepare for their final regular season game Oct. 26 when they host Freeman. It’s a game that will likely have plenty of playoff implications.
“Byes are good if you’re beat up, Hobbs said. “We have a couple of injuries so I’d just as soon we heal up.” Hobbs and his staff will also get to scout the regular-season final opponent in Freeman, which entertains Kettle Falls.
Hobbs said postseason is not part of the current discussion but players know that final game will be a big part of playing into November.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.