WEST RICHLAND - Liberty Christian returns its entire football roster in 2012 for its first official year as a member of the Southeast 1B-8 League.
And that'll be just fine with Touchet coach Gary Dorman.
For the second time in as many seasons, Dorman's Indians were roughed up by the Patriots on the final day of the regular season here Thursday night at Hanford High School in a game that meant a lot more to Liberty Christian than it did to Touchet.
Thursday's 60-16 Patriots victory, which was called with 5:04 remaining in the fourth quarter, put the capper on a 7-3 season record for a Liberty Christian team that is ineligible for postseason play because it is officially a Class 2B 11-man program. That will change next year when the school's dwindling enrollment will allow the Patriots to drop down to Class 1B and the 8-man ranks.
A year ago, in the first year of the WIAA's two-year enrollment allocation, Liberty Christian visited Touchet and pounded on the Indians 72-40 to finish off a perfect 9-0 campaign.
Touchet coach Gary Dorman, anticipating a playoff run that never materialized, rested his first-string players for most of that game. And he did so again here Thursday, knowing that the Indians were in as the No. 2 playoff seed out of District 9 and will host either Odessa-Harrington or Cusick one week from today in the first round of postseason play. Cusick is at Odessa tonight in a game to decide District 7's No. 4 playoff team.
"We played our starters most of the first half," Dorman said of Thursday night's game. "We made a few substitutions in the first half and pulled everyone at halftime and let our younger kids, our non-starters, play the rest of the way."
The Indians go into the postseason on a two-game losing skid after suffering a 48-42 home-field loss to Pomeroy Oct. 28 that cost Touchet an undisputed league championship. The Pirates, who clobbered St. John-Endicott 62-20 in Thursday's regular-season finale, and Colton, which edged Garfield-Palouse 52-48, join the Indians as tri-champions, each team with a 5-1 SEB-8 final record.
Pomeroy enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed and Colton No. 3 based on a preseason tiebreaker formula.
However, Dorman said he was more concerned with his team's health than its momentum going into the playoffs.
"Our feeling is that one more break might have impacted that Pomeroy game in a different way," Dorman said. "And regardless of the outcome Thursday, we didn't preach the importance of winning that game. We looked at it more as a high-speed practice against a very good defense, and the loss won't effect our kids at all."
It was also a high-speed practice against a very good offense, and the Patriots did to the Indians what several other good football teams were able to do this season - pile up the yardage.
Junior quarterback Mike Olson, finishing up his third year as the Patriots' starting QB, completed 6-of-9 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns, all of them to fellow junior Tyler Morris, who caught five passes for 171 yards. The duo connected for 65 yards and six points in the first quarter, 29 yards and a score in the second and 56 yards and another TD in the third period.
Junior running back Reece Howard was the Patriots' other primary weapon on offense. Howard packed the ball 16 times for 207 yards, which included touchdown runs of 41 yards in the first quarter, 1 yard in the second and 37 yards in the third.
Olson also had a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter and Tate Richards scored LC's final TD with a 2-yard run for the only points of the fourth quarter.
Touchet's starters hung with the Patriots in the first half, actually taking an early 8-0 lead on Jose Martinez's 15-yard touchdown run and his subsequent two-point conversion run in the first quarter.
The Patriots led 14-8 going into the second quarter, but junior Vicente Flores' 3-yard TD run and Elias Martinez's two-pointer put the Indians back on top 16-14.
However, the Patriots scored twice more in the second period to lead 30-16 at the intermission, and they dominated the Indians' backups in the second half.
Elias Martinez, the Indians' sophomore QB, completed 8-of-11 passes in the first half for 190 yards. Senior Eric Hines was the Tribe's leading receiver with four catches for 91 yards, junior reserve Lyle Dowsett caught two passes for 58 yards and Flores and sophomore Edgar Rincon caught two passes each for 58 yards combined.
Junior Jose Martinez rushed seven times for 42 yards. And freshman Colter McKeown saw his most extensive playing tie of the season in the second half, carrying the ball 10 times for 25 yards.
Dorman declared his team eager and healthy for next weekend's playoff debut.
"We have a couple of nagging injuries, deep bone bruises, the kind of things you expect this time of year," Dorman said. "But I don't think they are going to effect us in the next couple of weeks. I think we are going to be OK - knock of wood."
Liberty Christian 60, Touchet 16
Touchet 8 8 0 0 - 16
Liberty Christian 14 16 24 6 - 60
Tou - J. Martinez 15 run (J. Martinez run).
LC - Morris 65 pass from Olson (pass failed).
LC - Howard 41 run (Morris pass from Olson).
Tou - Flores 3 run (E. Martinez run).
LC - Morris 29 pass from Olson (Morris pass from Olson).
LC - Olson 1 run (Morris pass from Olson).
LC - Howard 1 run (Howard run).
LC - Morris 56 pass from Olson (Peterson run).
LC - Howard 37 run (Richards run).
LC - Richards 2 run (PAT not attempted).
First downs 16 16
Rushes/yards 37-64 31-261
Passing yards 206 196
Passes (att-comp-int) 15-10-0 9-6-0
Punts 2-35 0-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 4-45 2-28
RUSHING - Touchet: J. Martinez 7-42, Preciado 6-(-6), Flores 3-2, E. Martinez 6-(-8), Goble 2-7, Rincon 3-1, Colter McKeown 10-25; Liberty Christian: Howard 16-207, Richards 8-26, Olson 2-2, Morris 1-2, Steele 2-15, Lindquist 2-11.
PASSING - Touchet: E. Martinez 8-11-0, 190 yards; Preciado 2-3-0, 16 yards. Liberty Christian: Olson 6-9-0, 196 yards, 3 touchdowns.
RECEIVING - Team: Dowsett 2-58-0, Flores 2-41-0, Hines 4-91-0, Rincon 2-16-0; Liberty Christian: Morris 5-171-3, Lindquist 1-25-0.