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Cardinals fall flat in 48-19 NEA loss at Riverside


Paul Delaney

Medical Lake’s TJ Johnson eyes the field after a pass reception last Friday against Riverside.

The football field at Riverside High School in Chattaroy was the site of one of Medical Lake head coach Wes Hobbs’ most memorable victories.

After last Friday’s 48-19 win by the Rams over the Cardinals, it is now etched in his memory as the place where he’s suffered one of the most perplexing losses as a coach.

In October 2008, Hobbs’ first season on the job, his Medical Lake team showed all the grit and determination they appeared to lack this time in the Cards’ 22-13 victory. That win ended a 28-game league losing streak, was Hobbs first on the job and came on his 50th birthday.

“We showed up flat, we warmed up flat, everything was flat,” Hobbs observed. “It’s kind of one of those deals, you can see a storm coming but you’re going to get wet anyway.”

The Rams (2-0 NEA, 3-1 all games) got 160 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns from Jacob Collins, plus quarterback Sam Zaroni ran for two scores and threw for another.

The game’s turning point came relatively early.

After Medical Lake (1-1, 2-2) closed to within a point with Riverside leading 13-12 with 8 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the second quarter, following the first of two Cory Wagner scores, the Cardinals got the ball back in great field position after a muffed kick on the Rams’ 36 yard line.

That drive, hampered by a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty, went nowhere and ended in an interception by Andrew Kramer and Collins’ first touchdown.

“It’s 13-12, we kick and recover the ball; we should be on Cloud-Nine (but) we didn’t even react to that,” Hobbs said. “There’s a huge opportunity there to take the lead and we didn’t do it.”

Those were the first of 35 straight Rams’ points in what turned into an ugly rout. Riverside’s point production was the most against Medical Lake since a 49-14 loss in 2009 at Deer Park.

Medical Lake seemed to be ready to go 2-0 in Northeast A League play, answering Riverside’s first touchdown with Jackson Tappero’s score with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter to close it to 7-6 when the Cards failed on the extra point.

Following a short kick the Rams scored in just three plays, capped by a Zaroni to Ryan Cotter 34-yard touchdown connection that took just 1 minute, 5 seconds. Wagner directed a 13-play drive that he finished with his touchdown that came just before the meltdown.

“I don’t know, I just thought we had a better shot against those guys than what we showed,” Hobbs said.

Wagner would cap scoring with 8:07 to play on his 26-yard run around the left side with Taylor Masteller’s kick wrapping it up. Wagner had 65 yards on the ground and was 7-for-21 passing for 77 yards. Tappero finished the game with 102 yards on 23 carries.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Hobbs explained. “We’ve made it clear to our kids it’s not where you started, it’s where you finish and it’s our objective to finish in the playoffs.”

That opportunity to right the direction of the ship comes against Lakeside of Nine Mile (2-0, 3-1) which comes to Medical Lake Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The Eagles come to town with three straight wins after an opening week loss, 42-34 to 2A Pullman. They beat Kettle Falls 59-13 last week and Chewelah the week before, 33-7.

They’re like a spread option type team, Hobbs said.

“Sometimes we deal with that really well, sometimes we don’t; it just depends who shows up to play that night,” Hobbs said.

“They’re undefeated (in league) so they’ve got momentum on their side, but they are coming to our place.”

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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