ASOTIN — If you like fireworks, Asotin was the place to be Friday night.
Asotin sent fireworks into the night sky after ever Panther score here in a Southeast 2B-11 League football showdown with DeSales that was every bit as explosive as the pyrotechnics.
In the end, the Irish won the fourth quarter 21-7, scored the last two times they had the ball and converted a Tommy Gregg pass interception into the clincher with 3:32 left as DeSales knocked off the No. 3-ranked and previously undefeated Panthers, 50-36.
"There was a lot of offense up and down the field," Irish coach Pat Graham said. "In the fourth quarter, our kids rose to the occasion. We got defensive stops when we needed to, made plays on offense when we needed to, and it was a great win for the kids."
In a game that the Panthers led only once, 22-21 following a two-point PAT that Robert McIntosh converted by hurdling over an Irish defender on the last play of the first half, Asotin forced its last of four ties on a Ben Servatius-to-Matt Small 15-yard scoring pass with 7:01 left in the game to run the score to 36-36.
Dejavu struck on the ensuing Panther kickoff as freshman Ryan Baumgart picked up the bouncing Panther kick on his own 30 and scooted 70 yards for a touchdown and, after Victor Mata’s PAT kick, a 43-36 Irish lead with 6:36 remaining to play. In the second quarter, after Asotin had scored to tie the game at 7-7, DeSales senior Pat Richard raced 84 yards with the ensuing kickoff for a TD to reclaim the lead in a span of 15 seconds.
"Our special teams were another big key to that game," Graham said. "They (the Panthers) were able to score, and we came right back with two kickoff returns. We stole the momentum back. That was huge."
The ensuing Irish kickoff was fielded by Small on his knee at the Panther 18. The Panthers got an 8-yard run from Riley Spooner, who led all rushers with 211 yards on 19 carries on the night, but got hit with a delay of game penalty. Ben Konen stripped Servatius, but Clay DeBord got in back for the Panthers. On third down, Servatius overthrew Spooner, and Gregg picked it at the Panther 30. Gregg was hit and fumbled but Baumgart fell on the loose ball and the Irish were in business at the Asotin 14.
"He (Servatius) was just scrambling around," Gregg said. "I was sitting back waiting for someone to come out. The guy (Spooner) ran out, and he (Servatius) threw it up for grabs. He (Servatius) didn’t see me. I’m glad he just threw it up there."
The Irish got hit with a holding penalty, but recovered as Richard hit Nick Wales for seven yards back to the Panther 18. Richard did the rest as he slipped several tackles on his way to an 18-yard game-clinching touchdown run and DeSales had its biggest lead of the night at 50-36.
"Tommy had a great play on the interception," Richard said. "Then we punched it in to put the nail in the coffin."
The Panthers drove to the Irish seven with 100 seconds left. Two Pat Sharkey sacks ended the last Panther hope and the Irish ran out the clock.
Believe it or not, the game was scoreless after the first quarter. The Irish turned away a Panther threat at their own 14 on the game’s opening drive. Mike Matthews broke up a pass in the end zone to end the Panther threat.
"The defense stepped up in the red zone (twice)," Richard said. "If they would’ve scored down there, we’d probably still be playing."
The flood gates opened as the teams combined for 43 second-period points. Ryan Rea got his first of two TD catches on a 40-yard completion from Richard that put the Irish up 21-14 and set the stage for the Panthers’ only lead of the game.
Following a Kyle Lindgren interception, Rea capped a 32-yard Irish drive with a 10-yard touchdown catch with 3:47 left in the third. Richard ran in the 2-point conversion for a 29-22 DeSales lead.
Rea finished with six catches for 92 yards and those two touchdowns.
"I was scrambling around and the receivers were working with me," Richard said. "I was running around hoping for someone to come open, and Rea did it twice."
The Irish got 124 rushing yards on 13 carries from Kyle Lindgren as DeSales gained 358 yards of total offense.
"Everything was clicking. I think we could realize how potent we could be on offense," Richard said. "If we execute and play as a team as we did tonight, we could go to Tacoma."
Asotin posted 499 yards of total offense — both teams combined for 857 yards of offense — but the loss drops Asotin to 5-1 in conference, but clinches at least a tie for the league rown.
"Everyone knew we were suppose to lose this game," Gregg said. "It feels pretty good after winning it!"
Richard led the Irish with 310 all-purpose yards — 81 rushing, 145 passing including three for TDs, and an 84-yard kick off return.
"We had a lot of kids that had great efforts," Graham said. "You have to single out Pat Richard. He carried a lot of the load offensively for us all game long."
Coupled with Waitsburg-Prescott’s 33-7 win over Pomeroy Friday, W-P, DeSales, and Asotin all have one conference loss. Asotin has a non-league game Thursday at Davenport while DeSales hosts lowly Liberty Christian and Waitsburg-Prescott visits winless Dayton on Friday.
If the three teams are still tied after Friday, a three-way playoff will be held the following Tuesday to determine the conference’s two playoff spots.
DeSales 0 21 8 21 — 50
Asotin 0 22 7 7 — 36
DeS — Wales 1 run (Mata kick).
Aso — Spooner 30 pass from Servatius (Servatius kick).
DeS — Richard 84 kick off return (Mata kick).
Aso — Spooner 5 run (Servatius kick).
DeS — Rea 40 pass from Richard (Mata kick).
Aso — Servatius 1 run (McIntosh run)
DeS — Rea 10 pass from Richard (Richard run).
Aso — Spooner 5 run (Servatius kick).
DeS — Matthews 6 pass from Richard (Mata kick).
Aso — Small 15 pass from Servatius (Servatius kick).
DeS — Baumgart 70 kick off return (Mata kick).
DeS — Richard 18 run (Mata kick).
First downs 15 20
Rushes/yards 30-213 36-216
Passing yards 145 283
Passes (att-comp-int) 23-14-0 34-18-2
Punts 3-36.7 2-36.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-86 4-27
RUSHING — DeS: Lindgren 13-124, Richard 15-81, Wales 2-8; Aso: Styner 7-14, Spooner 19-211, Miller 1-1, Servatius 9-(-10).
PASSING — DeS: Richard 14-23-0 145 yards 3 TDs; Aso: Servatius 18-34-2 283 yards 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — DeS: Gregg 3-33, Wales 3-19, Rea 6-92-2, Lindgren 1-(-5), Matthews 1-6-1; Aso: Davis 3-43, Small 9-149-1, Spooner 5-77-1, McIntosh 1-14.