For the second time this season, the No. 1-ranked Kalama Chinooks found their horns locked with a Southwest 2B League power.
The stakes were much higher this time around. The outcome, though, remained the same.
Alex Dyer found Max Ross in the end zone in the first period of overtime to put Kalama in front, and Jacob Herz sealed the win with an interception after Quentin Crews tipped an Adna pass.
In the marquee matchup of the Class 2B State Tournament’s first round, Kalama gutted out a 36-29 overtime victory over the Pirates on Friday at Chinook Stadium.
“I just told all the guys … ‘We got to do it for the seniors,’” Herz said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told (Crews) ‘just get your hands up. Just fight. You’re the biggest kid out here, nobody is going to stop you.’ He did it tonight.”
By no means was it pretty for the Chinooks, who have grown accustomed to dominating on defense and watching their junior quarterback pick apart defenses. But the well-coached Adna side threw everything at Kalama.
The Pirates, using a “Swinging Gate” odd-front formation on fourth down, went 4 for 5 on fourth-down conversions, including two touchdowns. It made the game 21-20 right before the break, and then gave the Pirates a 26-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“That coach (KC Johnson) coaches them up really well,” Kalama coach Sean McDonald said of his adversary. “You can tell; it’s three phases of the game, and if you’re not there on special teams, it’s going to show up. And it did tonight. That coach is awesome.”
Kalama kept punching back. After falling behind 12-0 early, after a pair of Brady Collins touchdown catches from Conner Weed, the Chinooks’ engine finally got a spark.
It came in the form of 6-foot-1 senior wide receiver Tucker Wetmore. His 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown made the game 12-7 in the first quarter.
He then proceeded to haul in 10 passes for 132 yards, dancing and diving his way along the sidelines for big gains.
“He’s a momentum-changer,” McDonald said of his wideout. “Any time he’s on the field, he has a chance at making a big play.”
Alex Dyer was efficient as always, going 21-31 for 271 yards and three touchdowns — a 28-yard strike that gave Kalama its first lead, 14-12 early in the second quarter, a quarterback sneak to make it 29-26 with 6:06 to go in the game, and his overtime toss to Ross.
Dyer continued to extend plays and drives — he led TD drives of 11 plays, 98 yards; 11 plays, 90 yards; and 12 plays, 65 yards. He bought some extra room in overtime, too, before lofting it up to Ross, who positioned himself to make the grab and give Kalama the advantage in the first overtime period.
“Nobody can stop him. He’s probably one of the best athletes on this team, on the field at any time,” Wetmore said.
“Not only that, but he’s the best quarterback in the area,” Herz said.
But it was the defense of Kalama that had to come through. After getting torched for a season-high 302 yards, Kalama came up big on Adna’s final drive of regulation. The Pirates reached the Chinooks’ 4-yard line before settling for a 26-yard game-tying field goal by Weed.
And then the defense had to come up big one more time.
Crews, better known as “Country”, got his hand on Weed’s pass on Adna’s second play of overtime. The ball floated in the air and straight into the hands of Herz to seal Kalama’s win and a spot in the state quarterfinals against the winner of Friday Harbor and Pe Ell/Willapa Valley, who square off Saturday.
“I was just looking at the sideline and I’m just like ‘God, please help us,’” Herz said. “I saw him come across the middle and I was supposed to have him. I was like ‘Oh crap.’ Then Country tipped the ball and it landed right in my hands perfectly.”
Did fourth-ranked Adna provide just enough of a wake-up call to the Chinooks? Coach McDonald, who called Friday night “hard on the heart,” certainly hopes so.
“It’s good for us. I’m happy it happened, because they see what we have to do if they want to win a state championship, especially with a target on your back.”