History did a good job of repeating itself last Friday night in Medical Lake in the Cardinals season-opening game with St. Maries.
Medical Lake used a stout defensive effort in the second half and produced a fourth quarter rally to defeat the Idaho visitors 32-28 on a rainy night at Holliday Field.
“That’s a typical Medical Lake, St. Maries opener,” Cardinals head coach Wes Hobbs said. The two teams have engaged in some down-to-the-wire classics since beginning their cross-border clashes in 2010.
The 2012 game was decided by Kasey Kelly’s 70-yard interception return for a touchdown with just 13 seconds to play. And while this one didn’t have such theatrics, it was one of those cases where the game was never over until it was over.
Medical Lake got fourth-quarter scores from Roman Kissack with 10 minutes, 52 seconds to play to cut the Lumberjacks’ lead to 28-26, and then Tyler Masteller jumped on a fumble in the end zone with 7:05 to go for the winning margin.
After that it was left to ML’s resurgent defense that slowly gained confidence after a slow start.
Medical Lake’s first touchdown came on a nine-play 56-yard drive, all on the ground, capped by Jackson Tappero’s 1-yard run with 7:19 to play in the opening quarter. The Cards did go to the pass on the point-after, but failed.
St. Maries answered on its next possession and took just four plays to go 69 yards with quarterback Luke Feasline’s 15-yard touchdown run.
The Cardinals regained the lead going 67 yards, all but 11 of it on the ground, with Tappero scoring his second touchdown on a 1-yard carry with seven seconds left in the first quarter. Again, the two-point play, this time a run, failed.
The pace slowed in the second quarter with Medical Lake stopping St. Maries (1-1) on a three-and-out. The Cardinals drove the ball to the ‘Jacks’ 16 where Tappero fumbled. St. Maries would drive for the go ahead score on Feasline’s 6-yard run on fourth down with 3:34 remaining in the half.
Medical Lake (1-0) had the ball for just two plays when a collision in the backfield forced sophomore quarterback Cory Wagner to cough up the ball on his own 34.
“We made some first week mistakes that almost cost us the ballgame,” Hobbs said.
St. Maries would have a short field but Medical Lake’s defense stiffened and a Lumberjacks’ 33-yard field goal attempt with 47 seconds to play in the half fell short.
Medical Lake got the ball back and looked to put together a good drive to conclude the half. Runs by Taylor Masteller for 14 yards and a 26-yard reverse by TJ Johnson took the ball into St. Maries territory.
However Johnson, who is returning to football after some time away from the game, fumbled on the next play and the Lumberjacks got the ball back on their own 27.
“We had so many knockout shot opportunities and we found a way to keep those guys in the game,” Hobbs said.
Three plays later Feasline took advantage of busted coverage and found Dillon Michael all alone for a 27-yard touchdown as time expired for a 19-12 St. Maries lead.
“We went in at halftime and chatted about some things,” Hobbs said. His Cardinals seemed to take it all to heart.
St. Maries got the ball back to open the second half but had it just two plays before Ricky Petersen stepped in front of Feasline’s throw for an interception. Petersen initially returned the ball for a score but it was negated by a holding call.
Nonetheless, Medical Lake had the ball back deep in Lumberjacks’ territory and two plays later Tappero scored his third touchdown. Masteller’s run for a two-point conversion gave the Cardinals a 20-19 lead with 10:45 remaining in the quarter.
St. Maries answered with a drive that went down to Medical Lake’s 7-yard line but it stalled there and resulted in a 24-yard field goal, and a 22-20 Lumberjack lead.
Medical Lake had the ball just three plays before Wagner, throwing one of only three passes on the night, was intercepted by Blake Lyons who returned the pick to the Cardinals’ 22. Feasline scored his third TD on a 7-yard run and gave his team a 28-20 lead with 4:23 to play in the third.
Despite a hiccup or two from his young quarterback, Hobbs liked the job Wagner did. “I thought he commanded the offense pretty well,” Hobbs said.
Medical Lake answered with an 11-play drive that spanned the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter and capped off with Roman Kissack’s 3-yard run with 10:52 remaining in the game. When the two-point run failed, the Cardinals still trailed 28-26.
St. Maries’ next drive lasted just three plays and included a sack by Petersen. Medical Lake got the ball back and in great field position following Johnson’s punt return to the Lumberjacks’ 23. Four plays later Tappero, who led the Cards with 142 yards rushing, drove off-tackle to the one, fumbled, but Masteller was there to gobble up the loose ball for the eventual winning touchdown with 7:05 to play.
St. Maries next three drives all stalled inside their own territory. Feasline was sacked on the final play of the game at his own 27 by Ian O’Brien.
Medical Lake takes on its second Intermountain League team, and plays its final nonleague contest Friday night at 7 p.m. against the Bonners Ferry Badgers (1-1) following their 34-7 loss to the Cardinals Northeast A League foe, Newport.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.