VANCOUVER — Kelso paid its third and final visit of the season to McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver on Friday, and was probably glad to say goodbye.
And good riddance.
The Hilanders lost a fumble on their first play following the opening kickoff, and Mountain View quickly converted the turnover for a touchdown in a game it would never cease to control. The Thunder's 28-7 victory likely consigned Kelso to a third-place finish in the Greater St. Helens 3A League and provided a harrowing reality check with playoff football looming on the horizon.
The Hilanders, as they have all season, flashed the kind of talent, discipline and playmaking moxie that will beat good teams — but only in sporadic doses.
But a good drive here, a solid quarter there won't get it done, Kelso head coach Pat Hymes acknowledged. It didn't suffice against Mountain View and its meticulous running game, it was miles from adequate in a previous McKenzie debacle against Union, and it won't yield against Camas or quality foes beyond.
"We've got to find some consistency," Hymes said. "We still have a chance to beat Prairie at home (next Friday) and make the playoffs, but you'd think seven games into the season, even for guys who are playing their first year of varsity, that we'd be playing more complete games."
The opening fumble spotted the Thunder a 1st-and-10 at the Kelso 25, and five plays later, Mountain View senior tailback P.J. Jones was in the end zone after a 3-yard touchdown run.
Jones had much more in store for the Hilanders, exploding for a 62-yard run that set up Jeff Carmody's 1-yard touchdown plunge moments into the second quarter, then capping a swift 90-yard Thunder march with a 4-yard scoring jaunt and a 21-0 lead before halftime.
That score came after Kelso was stopped on 4th-and-3 from the Mountain View 11 — the result of a missed block.
Miscues accumulated throughout the first half. Kelso's six possessions before halftime ended in a lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs and an interception at the Thunder goal line.
"The ball fell out the first daggone time we had it, they fall on it and score, and things just didn't roll from there," said Hymes. "We can't keep doing the same things over and over and over."
Kelso (5-2, 3-1 in league) could not get its running game untracked, gaining just 30 yards on 19 carries as it fell behind by three touchdowns in the first half. Meanwhile, quarterback Makaio Mobbs struggled to control his passes in the wind and cold, overthrowing targets in the flat or wobbling passes down field. Mobbs did bounce back from a miserable first half to complete 6-of-12 passes after halftime, including three crisp completions on Kelso's lone scoring drive, and his chemistry with senior flanker Cedrique Chaney (seven catches, 127 yards) bode well for the future.
But with the running game stalled and the passing game wheezing, the Hilanders were unable to keep their own defense off the field - and Mountain View's running game wore them down.
Jones finished with 137 yards on 16 carries, Carmody had 102 yards on eight carries and fullback Sterling Reynolds added 90 yards on 14 touches. Reynolds' 23-yard touchdown run at the 5:12 mark of the third quarter made it 28-0 and came on the heels of Kelso's failure to convert a 4th-and-10 deep in its own territory.
Two players earlier, it was 3rd-and-3, but a missed block forced a two-yard loss on a running play, and a delay-of-game penalty gave Kelso 10 yards to convert instead of five.
The Hilanders spoiled their hosts' shutout bid with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Mobbs connected with Chaney for 14 yards and Ben Warthen for eight to lead the march past midfield. He fled the pocket and fired an across-the-body dart to Chaney for an 18-yard pickup to keep the chains moving, and an interception and long return was nullified by a personal foul penalty against the Thunder.
Riley Miller's 16-yard run made it first-and-goal at the 1, and Mobbs squeezed in on a sneak two plays later to make it 28-7 with 8:19 left in the game.
Any prayer of a comeback was snuffed when Mobbs was sacked for an 11-yard loss on 3rd-and-10 with 4:58 left.
Sam Young had three sacks for Kelso, and Warthen made a spectacular interception in the first quarter, catching a Thunder pass with one hand while backpedalling at full speed.
Kelso, down 7-0 at the time, was punting three plays later.
The Hilanders host Prairie next Friday.
Thunder 28, Hilanders 7
Kelso 0 0 0 7 - 7
Mountain View 7 14 7 0 - 28
MV - P.J. Jones 3 run (Chavo Camargo kick)
MV - Jeff Carmody 1 run (Camargo kick)
MV - Jones 4 run (Camargo kick)
MV - Sterling Reynolds 23 run (Camargo kick)
K - Makaio Mobbs 1 run (Sam Schmidt kick)