Medical Lake’s first playoff run in a decade came to a soggy finish last Friday night in Leavenworth where the Cascade Kodiaks rolled to a 44-14 victory in the opening round of state 1A play.
Hampered by poor footing on the field after days of rain, plus penalties that baffled the coaching staff, the Cardinals saw the game quickly get out of hand as the No. 2 team in the Caribou Trail League scored 28 second quarter points to advance to a second round game with Royal.
After scoring on a safety by sacking quarterback Adam Paulson in the end zone and leading 2-0 after a quarter, Cascade (7-2) got three touchdowns from Dennis Merritt - two back-to-back long runs in the big second quarter - which decided the game early. Elijah Nash and Fabian Alvarez scored to close out the half and pace their team to a 30-0 lead at the break.
Medical Lake (6-3), got a pair of late touchdowns in the fourth quarter from senior Seth Hansen four minutes apart in the closing minutes of the game.
“I just don’t think we were mentally prepared to play that night,” Cardinals’ head coach Wes Hobbs said. “It’s been a long season and when you get to the end of this thing you’re kind of tuckered out.”
Merritt added his third touchdown, a 52-yard run with 3:49 to play in the third while Noah Wood wrapped up the Kodiaks’ scoring with just 45 seconds remaining in the third.
The Cascade ground game rolled up 314 yards on 38 carries while Medical Lake slogged out 156 with leading rusher Micah Tappero running for 70 yards and Hansen 63. The Cards had a pair of fumbles, losing both.
Field conditions didn’t help, Hobbs said “It had rained there for 40 straight days or whatever it was. When you stepped on the middle of the field you went in to your ankles.”
But he admitted, both teams had to endure that and a game-long rain. “It was going to be one of those games where whomever was clicking and we weren’t the one clicking,” Hobbs said.
“One time we hit on a 25-yard run and the ball just spit out of our hands,” Hobbs said.
Medical Lake had good drives and then had a series of “phantom penalties,” according to Hobbs who was quick to add, “I’m not saying the game was poorly officiated, it just wasn’t something we normally do.”
Those were killers, he said.
In the second quarter, a series of personal foul calls stuffed the Cardinals near their end zone. That opened the door for Cascade’s big explosion. “We gave them field position every time with personal fouls,” Hobbs said.
Paulson connected on 8 of 15 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown pass for 8 yards to Hansen who had four catches for 26 yards in his final Medical Lake game.
“Cascade was a good football team that took advantage of every mistake,” Hobbs said.
The Caribou Trail League made a mess of the Northeast A in the first round of the playoffs, winning three of four. Regular season champ Chewelah was the only victor, but struggled to beat No. 4 Okanogan while Quincy topped Freeman 16-7 and CTL champ Cashmere hammered Lakeside 66-9.
“I told the kids after the game it didn’t matter if it were a first-round playoff game or the state championship,” Hobbs said. “If you lose you feel your season was for naught; Only one guy can win it all.”
That’s a tough pill to swallow, no matter how far you get in the playoffs, Hobbs said after qualifying a team for the playoffs for the first time in his coaching career.
“You win six games with only two or three kids coming back on both sides of the ball,” Hobbs reminded. “I really think they exceeded everyone’s expectations and we should celebrate that.”
As the season came to a conclusion, Hobbs wanted to thank the entire Medical Lake administration, including athletics director Chris Spring, “And a good bunch of fans,” who provided solid support all season.
Still it was a tough way to end the year that started out with Medical Lake winning its first five games. “We worked way too hard to finish the season like that,” Hobbs said. “(Cascade) was a team, in the coaches opinion, that we could beat.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.