In a crossover battle Friday night, Castle Rock kept up with Hoquiam for the first half, going point for point. However, in the end the Grizzlies clawed their way to the top, ending 50-22.
Chase Rusher stepped in for the injured Chance Naugle at quarterback, making his starting debut in what would turn out to be the Rockets’ last game of the season. He threw a few passes that ended in touchdowns and a couple that ended in interceptions.
“He did all the things we asked him. He did everything he could to help the team win. I’m proud of him,” coach Aaron Gehring said.
Wyatt Partridge, seemed to carry the team on his back for most of the game. He said he was proud of how Rusher filled Naugle’s shoes.
“I feel like we played great all around. Chase stepped it up,” Partridge said.
The first half went all right for Castle Rock. They had huge passes and made long runs. They snuck around the defense and seemed to know right where to go. But when they came back for the second half, the energy seemed to deflate like a popped balloon.
“Big mistakes lead to big things happening on their side. It’s just how it went. We came back with some injuries and not a lot of energy and not a lot of people can make stuff happen,” Partidge said.
While Hoquiam caught two interceptions, Castle Rock had some action too. Jayden Behrendsen caught a Grizzly two-point conversion attempt, keeping the scores close in the beginning of the third. But Hoquiam took off and ended the third quarter with a 22-point lead.
“It just didn’t fall our way tonight. We fell just one game short. We just had a couple of errors. We adjusted to their game plan, and they made a lot of great plays in the second half. It’s just how it goes,” Gehring said.
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Some of the standouts for Gehring were Paul Waldman, who made all of the extra-point kicks, Partridge for his 50-yard touchdown, among others, and Austin McQuilliams, who fought hard in defense.
“Austin McQuilliams, we can throw him anywhere on the defensive side of the ball and he’s always going to go 100 percent. I can’t be more proud of these guys and them building the program. I don’t want it to be done,” Gehring said.
For the players returning next season, this is a chance to grow, according to Landon Gardner.
“We have a lot to improve on. We need to get a lot of work done in the offseason. Get older and more experienced. I’m proud of everyone stepping up through all the injuries we had this season,” Gardner said.
Partridge said while this game is sad because it marks the end of the season, it will be a happy memory. It’s the last game he will play with some of his teammates who are graduating this year.
“I know its cliché but my brothers are graduating, my three best friends are going too… it’s the last time I’m going to play with them. Playing hard and watching everyone have fun, I’m going to miss it,” Partridge said.
The Rockets can only go up from here, Gehring said. This was one of their best seasons, going 7-2. Now, their sights are on beating that next year.
“For the underclassmen being a part of something like this, they know what it’s like to be a part of a winning program,” Gehring said. “It all started with this group of guys.”