TOUCHET — Friday’s afternoon’s football game here between Touchet and visiting Lyle-Wishram had all the makings of a mismatch.
While some 35-to-40 red-shirted Indians surrounded coach Gary Dorman on the sidelines prior to the kickoff, there were just 11 Cougar players across the way. And one of them was in street clothes with an injury.
And sure enough, a mismatch transpired. Just not as expected by the uninformed.
After a surprising 87-yard touchdown pass from Keale Wiseman to speedy Cody Carlsen on its first play from scrimmage, Lyle-Wishram turned to its double-barreled running game for most of the afternoon and overwhelmed a physically smaller Indians team 60-26 in the Southeast 1B-8 League game.
"When you talk about building a team, you always talk about a strong nucleus," Dorman surmised. "Lyle-Wishram’s entire team was its nucleus. It was very impressive the kind of talent they have on that team, top to bottom."
None more talented than the Matai brothers, senior Allen and junior Henry, who combined for 469 yards rushing as the Cougars rumbled to their sixth victory in eight games this season.
Allen Matai, a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder, used his quickness to slip through the Touchet defense for 185 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. Henry Matai, 6-0 and 203, depended more on bull strength as he ran over the Indians for 284 yards and five TDs on 22 carries.
When it was all said and done, Lyle-Wishram piled up 546 rushing yards. And Wiseman, the Cougars’ senior quarterback, completed two more passes on the day, one of them for a TD, and finished with 116 passing yards.
Touchet simply couldn’t answer that kind of offensive firepower, even though junior quarterback Jake Hodnefield did his best. Hodnefield completed 8-of-13 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for 104 yards and one TD.
Hodnefield had scoring strikes of 60 yards to Marshall Byerley, 35 yards to Gus Rodriguez and 12 yards to Matt Kates. And he tallied the Indians’ final touchdown on a 17-yard run.
The Indians did hang with the Cougars for the better part of the first half. When Hodnefield found Kates for a touchdown on a delayed crossing pattern in the end zone with 8:48 showing on the second-quarter clock, all that separated the two teams were a pair of successful two-point conversions that provided Lyle-Wishram with a 22-18 advantage.
The Cougars added to their lead on the ensuing possession when Henry Matai scored on a 4-yard run and added a two-point conversion, making it 30-18 with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
Touchet was presented with a golden opportunity with 1:46 on the clock when a fourth-down Wiseman pass fell incomplete and the ball was turned over to the Indians on the Lyle-Wishram 38-yard line. But two plays later, Hodnefield was intercepted by Carlsen, who returned the pick 20 yards to his own 30.
Four running plays advanced the ball to the Indians’ 21 where Lyle-Wishram called its final timeout with 11.5 seconds to play.
Wiseman dropped back and fired a pass in the direction of Henry Matai inside the 5-yard line. Touchet defender Vicente Flores got to the ball first and tipped it into the air. The ball then bounced off Matai’s hands, deflected off Flores’ shoulder pads and back to Matai, who clutched the ball and lunged the final few yards into the end zone.
The TD and Allen Matai’s two-pointer gave the Cougars a 38-18 halftime lead. And when Lyle Wishram scored on its first two possessions after the break to forge a 54-18 advantage, the mismatch was official.
The defeat, however, doesn’t hurt Touchet’s league standing since Lyle-Wishram is ineligible for the playoffs because the Cougars, despite their meager numbers, are officially a Class 2B school. At 3-2 in league play and 4-4 overall, Touchet has already earned the league’s No. 3 playoff ticket heading into Friday’s regular-season finale at Tri-Cities Prep.
The Jaguars defeated Colton 62-50 Friday night in Colton to clinch the league championship.
"This was the last game for our seniors and we wanted to continue to put forth our best effort," Dorman said. "And I feel that we did. I was not disappointed with our level of play.
"Obviously, we wanted to keep everybody fresh and healthy for next week’s game at Tri-Cities Prep. And we got a lot of players into the game. At times, we had as many as four freshmen out there on the field at the same time.
"We just couldn’t get Lyle-Wishram to put its second team in."
As if the Cougars had one.
Lyle-Wishram 16 22 16 6 — 60
Touchet 12 6 0 8 — 26
L-W — Carlsen 87 pass from Wiseman (H. Matai run).
Tou — Rodriguez 35 pass from Hodenfield (pass failed).
L-W — A. Matai 20 run (A. Matai run).
Tou — Byerley 60 passs from Hodnefield (pass failed).
L-W — H. Matai 23 run (run failed).
Tou — Kates 8 pass from Hodnefield (pass failed).
L-W — H. Matai 4 run (H. Matai run).
L-W — H. Matai 21 pass from Wiseman (A. Matai run).
L-W — H. Matai 31 rn (A. Matai run).
L-W — H. Matai 52 run (H. Matai run).
Tou — Hodnefield 17 run (O’Brien run).
L-W — H. Matai 15 run (run failed).
First downs 26 14
Rushes/yards 55-546 31-193
Passing yards 109 114
Passes (att-comp-int) 5-3-0 14-8-2
Punts 0-0 5-46.5
Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-37 2-17
RUSHING — Lyle-Wishram: A. Matai 18-185, H. Matai 22-284, Carlsen 7-47, Wiseman 3-12, Kitches 2-11, Huffman 1-9, Wolf 2-(-2); Touchet: Rodriguez 1-0, O’Brien 12-48, Hodnefield 13-104, J. Contreras 3-23, Kates 1-15, Ortiz 1-3.
PASSING — Lyle-Wishram: Wiseman 3-5-0, 109 yards, 2 touchdowns. Touchet: Hodnefield 8-13-1, 114 yards 3 touchdowns; Kates 0-1-1.
RECEIVING — Lyle-Wishram: Carlsen 1-87-1, H. Matai 1-21-1, Smith 1-8-0; Touchet: Rodriguez 3-34-1, Kates 2-21-1, Byerley 1-60-1, Preciado 1-5-0, O’Brien 1-(-6)-0.