Facing the Cashmere Bulldogs in an opening round playoff game on the road last Friday night, the Medical Lake Cardinals knew what to expect.
And it was much like what the residents of a low-lying island face with a pending tsunami following an earthquake. They know the wave is coming but Mother Nature always wins.
Cashmere's wave came on the ground with a fully-tilted attack that featured 508 yards on 45 carries – 11.28 yards per touch – and bowled over Medical Lake 54-14 in an opening-round state 1A playoff game.
As predicted, the Bulldogs were hapless through the air with quarterback Casey Ruether going 0-for-5.
But Ruether's legs added to a ground attack that saw five Bulldogs rush for over 70 yards. Mason Elliott carried just eight times for 147 yards and three scores. Ruether had 96 yards on five carries while Dylan Boyd scored once in his nine-carry, 95-yard evening. Rex Pittsinger's had 93 yards on 13 carries – a mere 7.15 yards per carry – while Oscar Cantu had seven carried for 70 yards and a pair of TDs.
"We played a running machine and it's just hard to beat," Medical Lake head coach Wes Hobbs said. "They run the ball so well, they don't have to conceal it."
But it was what didn't show up in the stats that played a big part, too, Hobbs said.
"For us it was just missed opportunities in the first half," Hobbs explained. "We dropped two balls that could have kept drives going."
Boyd opened scoring for Cashmere on an 85-yard punt return on a reverse with 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the contest following the Cards failure to move the ball on their first possession. Scores by Ruether and Elliott – twice on respective 38 and 26-yard runs – gave Cashmere (9-1) a 28-0 lead.
"We weren't playing that bad, we just didn't make some good choices," Hobbs said. "You drop a ball, you lose containment on a punt and when they did score they'd take off on a big one."
Jackson Tappero got the Cards on the board on a 4-yard run with 2:46 to play in the half. The junior had 206 yards on 29 carries in a backfield that was minus Steven Velazquez, injured a week earlier against Freeman.
Cashmere would tack on 28 more points on a pair of TDs by Cantu and singles from Boyd and Elliott before Wagner capped it on a 6-yard run with 3:22 to play.
The Cards ended up with 197 net yards on the ground with only quarterback Cory Wagner's 3 yard and fourth quarter score, and explosive TJ Johnson's single yard the only additional positive yardage rushing. Johnson did have a catch for 34 yards, however.
Wagner was 5-for-13 for 67 yards, but he tossed a pair of interceptions.
The loss of two-way starter Velazquez on the opening series at Freeman knocked, one two-way starter out of the lineup and Medical Lake lost yet another, defensive back and wide receiver Dylan Rushfeldt, on the second play against the Bulldogs.
"We were just decimated," Hobbs said. "At the end of the year you have to play Freeman and Cashmere back-to-back, that takes a toll."
The loss ended the Cards' season with a 4-5 record. "We had our chance at a couple of others where we were really close and didn't get it done," Hobbs said.
Building from last year's team and with some less experienced kids, "we're happy the way we hung in there," Hobbs said as he concluded his sixth season as head coach in Medical Lake.
Hobbs wanted to send a heartfelt thanks to his players, especially the senior class, he said. "We appreciate all the parents support and (that of) Medical Lake, too."
While he's just put the 2013 season behind him, Hobbs is already looking forward to 2014 and seeing how his young players like Wagner, Tappero and Johnson improve.
"He did really good," Hobbs said of Wagner, just a sophomore. "Last Friday night really showed growth just in that game."
As for Johnson, who turned out for football for the first time in a number of years, he made a huge impact as the Cards' leading receiver with 14 catches, 304 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's looking forward to coming back and playing with another year of football under his belt," Hobbs said. "He'll be much improved next year."
Tappero's 1,215 yards and 14 touchdowns speak for themself.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.