TOUCHET - Two days of incessant drizzle subsided here Friday.
Gusty southwest winds sprang up in the vacuum of the front as it moved east, raising havoc with the Touchet High homecoming parade in the morning. But by mid-afternoon, things had settled down.
And on the western horizon, a ribbon of sunlight offered the promise of an Indian summer still to come.
But the Touchet Indians weren't waiting. They made big plays on offense, key stops on defense and took advantage of a couple of opportune moments to outlast the Colton Wildcats 48-38 in a monumental battle between unbeaten Southeast 1B-8 League football rivals.
The victory leaves the Indians all alone atop the league standings with a 3-0 record, 5-0 overall. The Wildcats slipped back a couple of notches and are now 2-1 in league play, tied with Pomeroy for third place, and 5-1 on the year.
Garfield-Palouse, after Friday's 62-20 victory over defending league champion St. John-Endicott, is now alone in second place with a 2-0 record. The Vikings are 3-2 overall.
Pomeroy improved to 2-1 in SEB-8 play with a 40-20 victory over Lacrosse-Washtucna, a defeat that left the Tigercats at 0-3 in league play and perilously close to playoff elimination going into next Friday's game here against the Indians.
"This was just huge for us," Touchet coach Gary Dorman said after his team withstood Colton's 20-point fourth quarter and a withering Wildcats passing attack that produced 387 yards. "And we know next week will be just as big. Lacrosse knows they have to win to have a shot, and you know they will be bringing their ‘A' game."
Dorman was particularly pleased with Friday's victory in light of the fact that the Indians were without their starting quarterback, junior Ocatvio Preciado, and veteran senior lineman/linebacker Matt Shute. Both players were on the sideline with injuries.
"I was really pleased with the way some other kids stepped up," Dorman said. "You could see Elias Martinez get better and better and better at quarterback as the game went on. And Nate Ortiz at offensive guard and Colton Goble at linebacker came through in a big way."
Martinez, a sophomore who is considered a better passer than Preciado, lived up to that billing by completing 7-of-8 passes for 152 yards and four touchdowns. But he also contributed to the running game with 12 carries for 62 yards, including a 45-yard run late in the second quarter that set up the Indians' go-ahead touchdown.
Colton began the game as if it owned the field, taking the opening kickoff and blazing 80 yards in eight plays, capped by senior quarterback Josh Straughan's 12-yard touchdown scamper. Straughan, who completed 40-of-57 passes on the day and hit four different receivers for touchdowns, connected on 4-of-5 passes on the game-opening drive.
Touchet's first offensive series fizzled after three plays. But an 18-yard holding penalty on Colton's subsequent series, followed by a 17-yard punt and a 12-yard return by Vicente Flores, positioned the Indians offense on the Colton 27-yard line.
Six plays later, Martinez found Cori Ochoa open in the left flat for a 5-yard touchdown and the Indians evened the score at 6-6.
After a 45-yard Colton punt pinned the Indians on their own 20, Touchet put together a six-play, 80-yard drive and took the lead for good.
On the second play of the drive, Martinez rolled to his right looking to pass, then tucked the ball and raced 45 yards behind a key block from Eric Hines for a first down on the Wildcats' 33.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-two from the 25, Martinez rolled left on a designed running play. But when the play broke down he spotted Hines running a deep crossing pattern at the goal line and hit him in perfect stride for the six-pointer. Martinez then passed to Flores for a two-point conversion and a 14-6 Indians lead.
Colton cut that lead to 14-12 on Straughan's first TD pass, a 26-yard strike to Dustin Devorak with 2:16 remaining before halftime.
The Indians appeared content to run out the clock and get to the intermission with the lead. But when two Jose Martinez runs failed to net a yard, the Indians were faced with a third-and-10 from their own 31 with more than enough time remaining for a Wildcat retaliation.
Elias Martinez fumbled the third-down snap (a fumblerooski, perhaps?) but scooped up the ball in time to make a quick flip to the speedy Flores, who shed a couple of Wildcat tacklers and sped 69 yards down his right sideline for a touchdown. Elias Martinez ran for the two-pointer and the Indians led 22-12 at halftime.
The Indians extended their lead on the first possession of the second half with a 68-yard drive capped by Elias Martinez's 23-yard pass to Hines, who had four catches for 76 yards on the day.
Facing fourth-and-14 from their own 39 after Staughan was sacked by Jose Martinez, the Wildcats made a fatal mistake. Instead of punting, Straughan's deep pass down the middle fell incomplete and Touchet was back in business deep in Colton territory.
"I think with that offense, they think anything under 15 yards they can pick up," Dorman said of Colton's big gamble. "It was ill-advised, maybe, but their defense hadn't stopped us in quite a while."
And it didn't again as the Indians rolled into the end zone, this time on Flores' 5-yard run. Elias Martinez's two-pointer to Ochoa put Touchet in total command, 36-12.
And although the Wildcats scored on each of their next four possessions as Straughan filled the air with passes, the Indians managed to counter two of those scores and held on for the victory.
The Indians couldn't match Colton's no-huddle passing attack, but their versatile ground game proved to be the difference, especially in the second half. Jose Martinez rumbled for 81 of his 89 rushing yards after the break, Flores garnered all 79 of his in the second half and Elias Martinez was steady throughout as he picked his moments to run.
"They were trying to take away the wide stuff and left some holes in the middle," Dorman said of his team's second-half success running the ball inside. "We told Jose to get his pad level down and take on the hits with his shoulders, and he took it to heart. And though Elias is not a big kid, slightly built, he put his nose in there and didn't go down on the first touch.
"And that finally opened up the outside. I think they kind of fell asleep and Vicente surprised them some on the outside. He just seems to get stronger as the game goes on."
Touchet 38, Colton 38
Colton 6 6 6 20 - 38
Touchet 6 16 14 12 - 48
Col - Josh Straughan 12 run (run failed).
Tou - Ochoa 5 pass from E. Martinez (pass failed).
Tou - Hines 25 pass from E. Martinez (Flores pass from E. Martinez).
Col - D. Devorak 26 pass from Josh Straughan (pass failed).
Tou - Flores 69 pass from E. Martinez (E. Martinez run).
Tou - Hines 23 pass from E. Martinez (run failed).
Tou - Flores 5 run (Ochoa pass from E. Martinez).
Col - Josh Straughan 1 run (run failed).
Tou - Flores 42 run (pass failed).
Col - Z. Devorak 18 pass from Josh Straughan (pass failed).
Tou - Flores 32 run (run failed).
Col - Jake Straughan 3 pass from Josh Straughan (Jake Straughan pass from Josh Straughan).
Col - Robertson 7 pass from Josh Straughan (pass failed).
First downs 30 15
Rushes/yards 29-136 42-268
Passing yards 387 152
Passes (att-comp-int) 57-40-0 8-7-0
Punts 2-31 2-41
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-1
Penalties-yards 10-102 5-49
RUSHING - Colton: Robertson 11-29, Josh Straughan 18-107; Touchet: Flores 7-79, E. Martinez 12-62, J. Martinez 16-89, Colter McKeown 2-1, Goble 3-14, Ochoa 1-11, Hines 1-12.
PASSING - Colton: Josh Straughan 40-57-0, 387 yards, 4 touchdowns. Touchet: E. Martinez 7-8-0, 152 yards, 4 touchdowns.
RECEIVING - Colton: D. Devorak 5-54-1, Jake Straughan 13-107-1, Patchen 7-50-0, Robertson 11-126-1, Becker 2-13-0, Z. Devorak 2-37-1; Touchet: Hines 4-76-2, Ochoa 2-7-1, Flores 1-69-1.