OAKESDALE, Wash. -- On a cold, sad night, the Pomeroy Pirates joined Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia in a pre-game ceremony to honor Nighthawks receiver Zach Smith's family three nights after the T-O-R senior was killed in a car accident. Afterward, the Pirates held on for a 34-26 football victory over T-O-R on the Nighthawks' home field here Friday.
Both teams wore Smith's number 12 on the backs of their helmets, and some of the Nighthawks painted his initials and number in eye-black on their faces. The field was painted in his honor as well -- the midfield stripe emblazoned with a giant white ZS and two outlined number 12s facing each sideline.
Prior to the game, the Nighthawk seniors were honored. Smith was announced last, and his parents and family walked a long receiving line of hugs from players and their families as a somber crowd looked on.
Then came the really hard part. Smith's father announced the starting lineups -- his own son last as the 12th man. Cris Smith is the regular public address announcer for T-O-R sports.
The game for fourth place in the Southeast 2B-11 League was an evenly matched contest, pitting the Pirates' potent running game against one of the best rush defenses in the league in the Nighthawks.
Pomeroy put the first seven points up at 7:33 of the first quarter on Ethan McGee's 4-yard touchdown run and Ryan Koberstein's ensuing point-after-touchdown kick.
The Nighthawks responded on their third drive. Taking advantage of a short punt and Earl Gaines' 16-yard punt return, the Nighthawks were in business at the Pirate 25. Four plays later, quarterback John Kuhn snuck into the end zone on a 2-yard keeper to bring the Nighthawks to within one, 7-6.
The next Pirate drive stalled at the Pomeroy 34. Nick Tewalt's punt this time was blocked by T-O-R's Sam Lindekugel. The Nighthawks recovered at the Pomeroy 20 and three plays later scored on a Kuhn-to-Gaines 16-yard TD pass.
Pomeroy took the next drive 11 plays to the Nighthawk 10-yard line before turning the ball over on downs back at the T-O-R 18.
The Pirates defense, though, held, even pushing the Nighthawks back to their own 2. Tory Knebel's 26-yard punt return set the Pirates up at T-O-R's 11-yard line with just over two minutes to go in the half. On fourth-and-one from the two, quarterback Trevor Koberstein snuck into the end zone, putting the Pirates up at halftime 13-12.
Most of the second half belonged to the Pirates, beginning with an opening 14-play drive that lasted 6:18. A 19-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Koberstein to Wyatt Koller and a Trevor Koberstein conversion run upped the Pirate lead to 21-12.
Pomeroy scored again at 8:17 of the fourth quarter on an 11-yard run by Tyler Reisdorph, and again, one offensive play later, on a Tory Knebel 9-yard sweep -- the Pirates taking advantage of a T-O-R fumble.
With 6:45 remaining, the game appeared in hand for the Pirates at 34-12, but the excitement was just beginning.
The Nighthawks switched to the air, completing three passes for 32, 5 and 25 yards, quickly moving the ball to the Pirate 5-yard line. Running back Zach St. John capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 34-20 with 3:49 remaining.
The Nighthawks successfully converted a perfect onside kick, recovering the ball at the Pirate 44. A hook-and-ladder on the next play from Kuhn to Gaines proved disasterous when Gaines' lateral went to no one as he was tackled. The Pirates recovered at their own 40.
Pirate coach Scott McGee sent in the second string at that point, which resulted in a quick three-and-out. On fourth down, Tewalt's punt was again blocked, this time by Scott Eberle. The Nighthawks recovered at the Pomeroy seven, and scored two plays later on a Kuhn-to-St. John touchdown hookup to make it 34-26 with 1:49 left.
The Nighthawks again attempted an onside kick, this time by popping the ball up over the front-line of Pomeroy's receiving team. The kick was short, however, and Pomeroy's Klyntin Bott grabbed it out of the air and fell to the ground at the 47. Pomeroy ran for one more first down before taking a knee to end it.
"We heard about (Smith's death) on Wednesday and we weren't sure if they were still going to play the game," Scott McGee said. "I can't really imagine what they just did. They're pretty brave."
"We never gave up and we kept working," said an emotional T-O-R coach Ken Lindgren. "When you're missing bodies (due to injury) and when you're missing Smitty (Smith) that hurts. It took a lot of heart out of us. It's hard to pick up and come back from that."
"They're such a strong family. They're so supportive," Lindgren said of the Smiths. "He's (Cris Smith) emceed different banquets we've had, speaks whenever you ask him. And look what he did tonight. His son passed away on Tuesday and he announces the game Friday. It's incredible strength and the faith that they have is pretty evident in all they do. I love 'em."
After the game the Smith family returned to the field where the team and they released a bundle of silver and blue balloons in Ryan's honor.
Pomeroy 7 6 8 13 -- 34
T-O-R 6 6 0 14 -- 26
Pom -- McGee 4 run (R. Koberstein kick).
TOR -- Kuhn 2 run (kick failed).
TOR -- Gaines 16 pass from Kuhn (run failed).
Pom -- T. Koberstein 2 run (kick failed).
Pom -- W. Koller 19 pass from T. Koberstein (T. Koberstein run).
Pom -- T. Reisdorph 11 run (R. Koberstein kick).
Pom -- Knebel 13 run (run failed).
TOR -- St. John 4 run (St. John run).
TOR -- St. John 7 pass from Kuhn (pass failed).
First downs 17 6
Rushes/yards 44-160 27-59
Passing yards 79 93
Passes (att-comp-int) 18-7-0 18-11-1
Punts 3-11 4-43.75
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-2
Penalties-yards 3-23 6-58
RUSHING -- Pom: T. Reisdorph 6-46, McGee 21-101, Knebel 8-13, T. Koberstein 8-7, Smith 1-(-7); TOR: St. John 18-61, Eberle 1-(-3), Gaines 3-8, Kuhn 5-(-7).
PASSING -- Pom: T. Koberstein 7-17-0 79 yds. 1 TD, Smith 0-1; TOR: Kuhn 11-18-1 93 yds. 2 TDs.
RECEIVING -- Pom: R. Koberstein 1-13, T. Reisdorph 1-24, Knebel 3-15, W. Koller 2-27; TOR: Hereford 4-27, Gaines 3-54, St. John 4-12.