ROSALIA - Trailing 21-13 with time running out in the first half, Jeremiah Cox's 30-yard touchdown pass to Brian Baumgart stemmed the bleeding and gave DeSales some much-needed momentum going into the second half here Friday night.
That momentum and a few subtle adjustments - mental as well as physical - ignited the Irish to a 58-21 Southeast 2B-11 League football victory over Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia that was more than vaguely similar to last weekend's home loss to Waitsburg-Prescott. In that game at Ty Baffney Field, W-P scored a game-tying touchdown in the final second of the second quarter and went on to dominate the Irish in the second half for a 33-14 victory.
"You could say it was a little dose of our own medicine," Irish coach Pat Graham said of his team's momentum shift that led to a strong second half. "They had stolen the momentum and were up a couple of scores, but Brian caught the ball, made a couple of guys miss and took it to the end zone.
"And that put us right back in the game. We got the ball first to start the third quarter and marched down and scored. Kind of like what Waitsburg did to us last week."
The Irish were playing without Nick Wales, their senior running back and middle linebacker, who suffered a deep thigh bruise in the Waitsburg game and was unable to practice all week.
"He couldn't get full range of motion and wasn't to the point where he could go physically," Graham said. "We had to move on without him."
Wales wasn't missed nearly as much on offense as he was on defense, Graham said. Junior Luke Fazzari took over the running back duties and bashed for 197 yards on 28 carries and had touchdown runs of 2, 3 and 8 yards in the second half.
"To be honest, we didn't miss a beat offensively," Graham said. "Luke is a very capable running back. He started a couple of games for us last year as a sophomore and we knew we were going to be OK."
Fazzari also started at middle linebacker on defense, but the Irish found it difficult to slow down the Nighthawks' running attack, especially in the first half. T-O-R finished the night with 299 yards rushing, led by sophomore Craig Nelson's 149 yards on 16 carries and senior Joe Gaines' 138 yards on 20 trips.
"When you lose your middle linebacker against a team that likes to run the ball, it's an adjustment," Graham said. "And it took us some time to adjust. We were kind of disjointed on defense."
Halftime gave the Irish the opportunity to make the adjustments, Graham said.
"We had some guys who were not in the right spots," the coach said. "Mostly it was effort. We weren't flying around to the ball. We were used to having Nick in there running around and making tackles, and we didn't make up the difference until the second half."
Graham credited Fazzari at linebacker and Mat Zimmerman at defensive end for "making some big stops and swinging the momentum" in the third quarter.
The Irish offense also took flight after the halftime break.
"We had been shooting ourselves in the foot with bad snaps, bad passes and missed blocking assignments," Graham said. "But once we got the momentum, we never gave it back."
Cox had a big passing game as he completed 21-of-26 passes for 348 yards and five touchdowns. Four of his TD strikes were to Baumgart, who caught seven passes for 159 yards, and the fifth went to Darryl Galloway, who had five receptions for 56 yards. Joe Duehn caught six balls for 83 yards.
The victory evened DeSales' league record at 1-1 and bumped the Irish's season mark to 3-2. DeSales still trails Waitsburg-Prescott, which moved to 2-0 in the SEB-11 with a 7-6 victory over Dayton, and Asotin, 2-0 after Friday's 32-27 win at Tri-Cities Prep, heading into next Friday's game at Asotin.
"We have a tough road schedule this year," Graham said. "But we have explained to our kids that every week is the most important game on the schedule. There are a lot of teams in this league that can win football games."
Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia saw its record slide to 0-2 in league and 2-3 overall. The Nighthawks travel to Dayton Friday.
DeSales 58, T-O-R 21
DeSales 13 6 26 13 - 58
T-O-R 7 14 0 0 - 21
T-O-R - Nelson 5 run (Maley kick).
Des - Galloway 12 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
DeS - Baumgart 15 pass from Cox (kick failed).
T-O-R - Gaines 25 run (Maley kick).
T-O-R - Gaines 2 run (Maley kick).
DeS - Baumgart 30 pass from Cox (pass failed).
DeS - Baumgart 18 pass from Cox (kick failed).
DeS - Fazzari 2 run (Martinez kick).
DeS - Fazzari 3 run (kick failed).
DeS - Baumgart 20 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
DeS - Duehn 12 pass interception return (kick failed).
DeS - Fazzari 8 run (Martinez kick).
Rushes/yards 32-206 47-299
Passing yards 348 57
Passes (att-comp-int) 26-21-0 13-2-3
Punts 4-32 6-40.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
RUSHING - DeSales: Fazzari 28-197, Cox 4-9; T-O-R: Nelson 16-149, Gaines 20-138, Boxleitner 5-30, Littleton 2-0, Maley 2-(-1), Pittsley 2-(-17).
PASSING - DeSales: Cox 21-26-0, 348 yards, 5 touchdowns. T-O-R: Maley 1-8-2, 32 yards; Pittsley 1-5-1, 25 yards.
RECEIVING - DeSales: Baumgart 7-159-4, Duehn 6-83-0, Galloway 5-56-1, Fazzari 2-50-0, Elmenhurst 1-7-0; T-O-R: Shelton 1-25-0, Gaines 1-32-0.