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2B State Football: Kalama pulls away from Toledo, into semifinals

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KALAMA — The Kalama football team’s State voyage didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts against familiar competition, but the Chinooks came away 40-15 winners over Toledo in the quarterfinals of the 2B playoffs.

Just as it was after their win over the Riverhawks in the regular season, the Kalama coaching staff was left wanting more after a win that they thought was closer on the field than it was on the scoreboard.

“They smacked us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond that well,” acting head coach Brandon Walker said. “The score isn’t indicative of how the game went; you don’t always say that on the winning end.”

But like the first meeting between the teams, when the Chinooks held the Riverhawks to nothing in four red zone trips, Kalama’s defense did enough at just the right moments to come up big. The Chinooks pounced on three fumbles, one of which sophomore Luke Davidson scooped up and returned 73 yards the other way for the scoop-n-score.

Kalama also blocked a punt in the third quarter, setting its offense up with a short field, and despite making it a bit longer with a penalty, the hosts took advantage, with Nate Meyer taking a screen pass home from 27 yards out.

Meyer added a second touchdown later in the third quarter on a 19-yard throw Jackson Esary dropped in the bucket over the top. In the first half, Jack Doerty got on the receiving end of a pair of touchdowns, from 10 and 60 yards out.

Esary finished his night 10-of-18 for 168 yards and the four touchdowns. Max Cox led the receiving corps with five catches for 55 yards, but Doerty and Meyer went further with 74 and 70 yards, respectively, on four receptions.

On the ground, Bradey O’Neil took seven carries for 34 yards, plunging into from 5 yards out on his last run to cap off the scoring. Esary added 32 yards of his own on four carries.

“We were able to run the football when needed,” Walker said. “You try to stay as balanced as possible, but when you have Jackson Esary, you always want to put the ball in his hands and good things always happen. There’s that fine line between giving him the rock and giving someone else a touch here and there.”

Toledo quarterback Wyatt Nef led all rushers with 147 yards on 31 carries. He had both of the Riverhawks’ touchdowns — from 7 yards out in the second quarter and from 2 in the fourth. Geoffrey Glass had 13 rushes for 43 yards.

“I think our guys had the physicality that we needed, which was awesome,” Toledo coach Mike Christensen said. “Our execution on offense wasn’t great, and that’s frustrating because we had been playing so well offensively.”

Toledo ends its season 10-3, with all three of its losses coming to state semifinalists. The Riverhawks will graduate nine seniors: Nef, Justin Filla, Aiden Umbriaco, Isaiah Surrey, Carson Olstead, Ethan McAlney, Conor Gilreath, Damion Soto, and Joshill Tilton.

“It’s hard to tonight, but I think over time they’ll see,” Christensen said. A 10-win season is always good, placing in State, getting a banner, those are all things we set out to do. After tonight, in the next coming weeks, we’ll see that banner up there and it’ll be cool. It’ll remind me of this group of kids, and that’s something you can hold on to.

“You always want to go further than you get unless you win it all, and it would’ve been nice to be playing next week, but I’m definitely proud of our group overall.”

Across the field, Kalama is guaranteed at least four more quarters. The Chinooks will get a rematch with Onalaska next Saturday evening, with a spot in the championship game on the line. When Kalama hosted the Loggers on Oct. 16, it unleashed a 52-6 beatdown that sent shockwaves around the 2B landscape.

“Onalaska’s tough, they’re big and physical,” Walker said. “We know what to expect, they know what to expect. I think we got them on the right day the last time we played, we came out and we played really good football, I think our best football of the season. If we play like we did tonight next week, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but hopefully we clean it up.”

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