TOUCHET — Rain clouds parted and brilliant October sunshine bathed the Touchet High football field here Friday afternoon, further brightening a day in which the Indians locked up a berth in the Class 1B-8 state playoffs.
The Indians fought off St. John-Endicott’s Eagles 26-18 in a Southeast 1B-8 League battle that officially stamped Touchet as a postseason qualifier.
Then a Touchet contingent that included coach Gary Dorman hustled over to Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco to enjoy Tri-Cities Prep’s 46-0 rout of defending state champion Lacrosse-Washtucna. Had the Indians not taken care of business in the afternoon, Friday night’s outcome would have achieved the same.
Improving Touchet raised its record to 4-3 on the season and 3-1 in the SEB-8. The Indians are in third place behind Colton (5-0, 7-0) and Tri-Cities Prep (4-0, 5-2) in a league that sends its top three teams into the playoffs.
Lyle-Wishram (2-2, 5-2), which visits Touchet next Friday, is ineligible for the playoffs, and Lacrosse-Washtucna (1-3, 4-3) suffered a 28-26 loss to Touchet last week in Lacrosse.
The big one for the Indians now is a Nov. 6 game at Tri-Cities Prep. Touchet will either be playing for a tie for second place with the Jaguars or a three-way share of first place, depending on the outcome of next Friday’s game between Colton and Tri-Cities Prep on the Wildcats’ field.
But before getting too far ahead of himself, Dorman needs to take time to enjoy Friday’s hard-fought victory over an Eagles team that played much better than its 0-4 league record, 2-5 overall, would suggest.
"Every team we play seems to be so big," Dorman declared. "We don’t match up well with anyone. We’re just not very big."
Certainly the Touchet defense had its hands full against an Eagles offense that pounded away on the ground with a trio of sturdy running backs.
Trevor Johnson, a 190-pound senior who did most of his damage in the second half, carried 16 times for 80 yards, 170-pound sophomore Cole McCanna rammed for 75 yards on 14 carries, and 175-pound junior Ben Harrison chipped in with 32 yards on 11 trips.
The Eagles wound up with 193 yards rushing on 47 attempts. And SJ-E quarterback Kyle Raynor completed 12-of-26 passes for another 188 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown toss to twin brother Evan Raynor on the final play of the first half and an 80-yard TD to Johnson on a fourth-quarter screen pass that kept the Eagles in the game.
The Eagles’ 73 offensive snaps nearly doubled Touchet’s output. But St. John-Endicott couldn’t overcome the Indians’ big-play combination of junior quarterback Jake Hodnefield and his new favorite receiver, senior halfback Gus Rodriguez.
Five times Hodnefield found Rodriguez coming out of the backfield. Those five completions accounted for 215 yards, including scoring plays of 60, 51 and 31 yards, and 37-yard hookup between them set up Hodnefield’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 2-yard zinger to Marshall Byerley.
Rodriguez, who quarterbacked the Indians much of last season when Hodnefield was injured, began 2009 at an end position. But he moved to the backfield to take over for senior Tuff Goble, who was inserted at center in place of senior Kelsey Cardwell, who has missed the last two games because of a family commitment.
The move created a new option for the Touchet offense, Dorman said.
"We noticed last week at Lacrosse that when we put Gus in motion, the defense was anticipating that he would be used to block," Dorman explained. "So we switched that up and began using him more in the running and passing part. It’s taking advantage of what the other teams are giving us, and he’s been the shining star the last couple of weeks."
Touchet led 20-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the first half. But the Eagles got on the board on the Raynor-to-Raynor twin killing as the first half expired, And SJ-E made it a one-possession game, 20-12, on McCanna’s 1-yard touchdown run with 4:28 remaining in the game.
When Touchet was unable to cover the ensuing squib kick, the Eagles offense was back in business near midfield. But the Indians’ defense forced a four-and-out, with junior defensive end Ian Loney putting heavy pressure on Kyle Raynor on a fourth-down pass.
Two plays later, Hodnefield spotted Rodriguez in single coverage over the middle. Rodriguez snatched the pass in front of the Eagles defender and outran him to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown that iced the victory, albeit not before Johnson’s 80-yard rumble after hauling in the screen pass.
The Eagles’ second attempt at a squib kick was too hard, bounced out of bounds and Touchet took over at its own 37 with 2:15.
The Indians burned up most of that time but were forced to punt with 24.1 seconds to play. The Eagles got off three pass plays good for 11 yards before the horn sounded.
St. John-Endicott 0 6 0 12 — 18
Touchet 8 12 0 6 — 26
Tou — Rodriguez 31 pass from Hodnefield (O’Brien run).
Tou — Byerley 2 pass from Hodneifield (run failed).
Tou — Rodriguez 60 pass from Hodnefield (pass failed).
SJE — E. Raynor 14 pass from K. Ranor (run failed).
SJE — McCanna 1 run (pass failed).
Tou — Rodriguez 51 pass from Hodnefield (run failed).
SJE — Johnson 80 pass form K. Raynor (pass failed).
First downs 13X 10
Rushes/yards 47-193 25-47
Passing yards 188 237
Passes (att-comp-int) 26-12-0 15-10-0
Punts 2-31 2-28
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-3
Penalties-yards 8-78 2-19
RUSHING — St. John-Endicott: Harrison 11-32, K. Raynor 6-6, McCanna 14-75, Johnson 16-80; Touchet: Rodriguez 3-12, O’Brien 10-38, Hodnefield 12-(-3).
PASSING — St. John-Endicott: K. Raynor 12-26-0, 193 yards 2 touchdowns. Touchet: Hodnefield: 10-15-0, 237 yards, 4 touchdowns.
RECEIVING — St. John-Endicott: West 1-3-0, E. Raynor 4-85-1, Johnson 5-106-1, Harrison 1-(-5)-0, McCanna 1-6-0; Touchet: Rodriguez 2-215-3, Byerley 2-8-1, O’Brien 2-10-0, Kates 1-4-0.