Medical Lake grinds out crucial win over Kettle Falls
Cardinal control of the clock plays big part in 24-15 Homecoming win
There was a lot to like about Medical Lake's 24-15 Northeast A League football victory over Kettle Falls in last Friday's Homecoming game according to Cardinals' head coach Wes Hobbs.
The win, which was Medical Lake's second straight improved their NEA record to 3-2 and overall mark to 4-3.
"It was good, we needed that one," Hobbs said. "Regardless of the outcome with Freeman we've got a shot (at the postseason)."
With Jackson Tappero scoring twice and rushing for 145 yards on 29 carries, the Cardinals started fast, got a decent lead at 21-7 and then settled in for a snoozer of a second half. Taylor Masteller scored the second Cardinal touchdown, and added a 27-yard fourth-quarter field goal to cap scoring.
"We really liked the way we executed in the first half," Hobbs said. "We were kind of systematic about the whole thing; things were clicking."
The Cardinals took 7 minutes, 17 seconds off the clock on their opening drive, which was concluded by Tappero's 4-yard run with 4:43 left in the quarter.
Kettle Falls got on the board when Conner McKern broke in to block an Ian O'Brien punt as the first quarter wound down. McKern recovered the ball and never missed a stride in the 42-yard return.
"We had one lapse on the blocked punt," Hobbs said. "But we recovered from that and scored two more times and so we felt pretty good going in at halftime."
Medical Lake's defense took over from there limiting the Bulldogs (0-4, 1-6) offense to three-and-out possessions their first three times on the field. The last two were even more disastrous with Steven Velazquez ending each with an interception.
"That one long ball, he played that perfectly," Hobbs said of the first, a ball that could have easily led to a Kettle Falls touchdown with 59 seconds remaining in the half. Velazquez's second came with just three seconds to play in the half.
There were more errant balls up for grabs, too. "We had our hands on two or three interceptions and batted them around," Hobbs said.
The teams came out sluggish from a slightly lengthened halftime because of Medical Lake's Homecoming festivities.
Kettle Falls had just two possessions in the third quarter but the only thing they produced was the Bulldog's first, first down of the game, one of the nine they had on the evening.
"We just didn't execute very well in the second half," Hobbs said. "I think we took it easy rather than pour the coal on a little bit; we kind of eased up."
Masteller's field goal with 9:59 left in the game pushed the Medical Lake lead to 24-3.
Kettle Falls got on the board with 3:13 to play on an 8-yard McKern run. McKern's 2-point play to Brandon Hopkins made it 24-15 and got Hobbs a little concerned.
The toss, batted around by ML defenders in the end zone, fell into Hopkins hands while he was on his back. "When that stuff starts happening you go, 'Oh, boy,'" Hobbs said.
But his team stuck to the game plan, Hobbs said. "We managed to take the clock away from them. We didn't want them to sustain any long drives and try to get them on second and third and long situations. We managed to and that turned out pretty good."
The Cardinals ruled time-of-possession with s 30:03-17:57 edge and enjoyed a 262-216 overall advantage in yardage. TJ Johnson rolled up 79 yards in return yardage.
Medical Lake takes this week off before finishing the regular season at NEA-leading Freeman (4-0, 7-0), Friday, Nov. 1.
"It's nice to string two back-to-back and get some momentum going into next week," Hobbs said.
But the bigger bonus is the rest.
"We've got out hands full with Freeman, that's for sure," Hobbs said. "We've got some owies that have to heal up and Friday against Kettle Falls a couple more got banged up and had to exit the game."
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.