Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Clock is Cardinals' enemy in opening week loss

Medical Lake fails to finish in a 23-6 defeat to Kellogg


September 7, 2017

Paul Delaney

Medical Lake's Alex Stith proved to be a factor in the Cardinals season opener versus Kellogg with a series of booming punts.

The start seemed to be there; it was the finish that still needs work in order for second-year Medical Lake head football coach Mo Owen to earn his first victory with the Cardinals.

Season two opened with a 23-6 nonleague loss to the Kellogg Wildcats Sept. 1 at Holliday Field with time not on their side.

Twice, once in the first half and another as the game clock wound down, Medical Lake, behind the fleet feet of quarterback J.J. Johnson, engineered drives deep in Wildcat territory that were dashed by the clock.

Johnson, a 5-foot, 9-inch, 165-pound senior, led the team in rushing with 98 yards on 22 carries, essentially by default, Owen said.

"The plan was not to rush J.J. so much, but the defense was keying the running back so we used him as a decoy and J.J. was able to get some yards," Owen wrote in an email.

It really started working in second half, he added, but noted, "We will be more diversified as the season goes on."

Kellogg scored first with 3 minutes, 56 seconds left to play in the first quarter on the first of a pair of Chase Jerome touchdowns from four yards out. His run on the conversion made it 8-0. One series later the Wildcats' Gavin Luna capped a six-play drive with his six-yard TD run for a 15-0 edge with 10:33 to play in the second quarter.

The Wildcats were driving for another possible score late in the second quarter and got to the 3 when Jerome had the ball stripped and was recovered by an unidentified Medical Lake player - or players.

That started the Cardinal drive which ended as time ran out in the half, this time at the 16 yard line. Medical Lake received the second-half kickoff and put together a 10-play possession that was stopped with a failed attempt to convert a fourth and 17 at the Kellogg 28.

Kellogg's only punt of the night led to the drive where Medical Lake scored its lone touchdown as time wound down in the third quarter. With Johnson sidelined for several plays after being shaken up in a hard hit, Carter Pivonka caught a 13-yard pass from twin brother James to cut it to 15-6 with nine seconds to go.

"We have three quarterbacks we feel confident throwing the ball and running the offense," Owen said of Carter Pivonka being allowed to throw in his brief relief role.

Momentum stayed on the Cardinals' side for the next few minutes as Anthony Smith stepped in front of a Jerome pass for an interception. Again, however, ML went three and out and on the ensuing Kellogg possession they capped a 13-play drive with Jerome's second score and a 23-6 lead with 3:47 to play.

Johnson then directed his team downfield on the final drive that appeared to be stopped when Kellogg had an apparent interception that was wiped out by their fourth roughing the passer call of the game.

Kellogg's offense relied almost solely on the run. They rolled up 281 yards on 44 touches. "We have to continue to work on our angles to the ball and making tackles when the opportunities are there," Owen said.

The Cardinals travel for a Friday, Sept. 8 contest at 7 p.m. in Priest River, Idaho which saw its record evened at 1-1 following a 29-8 loss to fellow Northeast A League member, Newport.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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