TOUCHET - Fear, it's been said, is a great motivator.
The Lacrosse-Washtucna Tigercats came here Friday knowing full well that one more defeat would dash all remaining hope of securing one of the Southeast 1B-8 League's three postseason playoff berths.
And for most of the afternoon the Tigercats' offense responded to that fear - first on the ground, then through the air and finally on the scoreboard when senior quarterback Jay Aune's 2-point conversion run produced a 36-34 L-W lead with 8:41 remaining in the game.
That was by far the latest undefeated Touchet had trailed in any of its six games this season. And that's when fear crept to the other side of the field.
Realizing that a possible league championship and the shot at an undefeated season were in serious jeopardy, the Indians responded with two more touchdowns and two rare defensive stops in the closing minutes of play to claim a 48-36 victory.
The Indians improved to 4-0 in league games and 6-0 overall. And though two more difficult SEB-8 tests remain - at Garfield-Palouse next Friday and at home against Pomeroy the following week - Touchet is clearly in the driver's seat.
The Tigercats, meanwhile, dropped to 0-4 in league play and 3-4 overall. Even if they win out against St. John-Endicott and Sunnyside Christian, it will be too little, too late for a very good football team.
"Lacrosse was everything I expected them to be," Touchet coach Gary Dorman said of his alma mater. "Pretty balanced, hard hitting, an in-your-face kind of team. The kind of team we hadn't faced before.
"And I think their record was pretty deceiving coming in here, having lost to three teams that are pretty tough to play."
Lacrosse-Washtucna began its season with three consecutive non-league wins. But the Tigercats began league play with a 50-38 home loss to Garfield-Palouse, lost 52-40 at Colton the following week and then 40-20 to Pomeroy last weekend in Lacrosse. Colton and Pomeroy are 3-1 and one game behind Touchet in the standings and Gar-Pal, 2-2, is the only other team with a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
While the Indians defense had more than its share of difficulties trying to get stops and get off the field, the Touchet offense overwhelmed the Tigercats with one big scoring play after another.
"If you like to play defense, our offense is great for that," Dorman said. "I would like to be able to use up a little more clock, but we will never say we don't want to score. We have some different weapons that we have found, and we will take what the defense gives us."
After junior running back Jose Martinez turned what appeared to be a short gain up the middle into a 72-yard touchdown run on the Indians' second possession of the game, the Tigercats appeared determined to take Touchet's inside running game away. Martinez managed just 24 yards on his other eight carries in the game, finishing with 96 net yards rushing.
"They were playing real tight to the line of scrimmage, seven guys tight and reacting real fast to the run," Dorman said of L-W's defensive strategy. "And that opened up some other things."
Like the passing combination of sophomore quarterback Elias Martinez and senior receiver Eric Hines. And the multi-faceted running ability of junior Vicente Flores.
Martinez and Hines hooked up five times for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Guy Greg dialed up Flores' number just seven times, but he made the most of it by racing for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
When the dust finally settled, Touchet had garnered 484 net yards rushing and passing combined on just 31 offensive snaps.
By comparison, Lacrosse-Washtucna rushed the ball 54 times for 211 yards and rolled up another 280 yards on 31 passing attempts. The Tigercats totaled 491 yards on 85 plays but came up 12 points short on the scoreboard.
The game boiled down to those final 8 1/2 minutes.
After L-W went on top, Elias Martinez' final pass completion to Hines produced 65 yards and Touchet's go-ahead touchdown with 7:00 on the fourth-quarter clock. The Tigercats responded by driving deep into Touchet territory, but a fourth-down Aune pass was knocked down by Hines in the end zone and the Indians got the ball back with 4:39 to play.
It took the Indians exactly two plays to score again, this time on a 68-yard Flores mad-dash around his right end. Elias Martinez passed to Hines for a two-point conversion and a 48-36 lead with 4:14 to play.
The Tigercats once again marched deep into Touchet territory. But on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard-line, Hines intercepted Aune in the end zone to seal the victory.
"Eric is in his third year as a starter and he has paid his dues," Dorman said of Hines. "He's not a big guy, but he's now as physical as most of the guys he goes up against.
"And he's smart. He complements everyone else on the field, always looking to make the key block or playing that deep zone and keeping guys in front of him. He has really grown as a football player."
Touchet 48, Lacrosse-Washtucna 36
Lac-Washtucna 6 14 0 16 - 36
Touchet 6 16 12 14 - 48
L-W - Hostetler 1 run (pass failed).
Tou - J. Martinez 72 run (pass failed).
Tou - Hines 74 pass from E. Martinez (J. Martinez run).
L-W - Harder 17 pass from Aune (pass failed).
Tou - Flores 42 run (J. Martinez run).
L-W - Stubbs 8 pass from Aune (Harder pass from Aune).
Tou - Flores 55 run (run failed).
Tou - Hines 26 pass from E. Martinez (pass failed).
L-W - Stubbs 2 run (Holdren pass from Aune).
L-W - Holdren 13 pass from Aune (Aune run).
Tou - Hines 65 pass from E. Martinez (run failed).
Tou - Flores 68 run (Hines pass from E. Martinez)
First downs 28 9
Rushes/yards 54-211 23-285
Passing yards 280 199
Passes (att-comp-int) 31-21-1 8-5-0
Punts 2-46 2-33
Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 4-26 6-49
RUSHING - Lacrosse-Washtucna: Hostetler 32-157, Holdren 10-30, Aune 8-19, Stubbs 3-13, Summers 1-(-8); Touchet: J. Martinez 9-96, Preciado 4-11, Flores 7-171, Hines 1-1, E. Martinez 2-(-4).
PASSING - Lacrosse-Washtucna: Aune 21-30-1, 280 yards, 3 touchdowns; Hostetler 0-1-0. Touchet: E. Martinez 5-8-0, 199 yards, 3 touchdowns.
RECEIVING - Lacrosse-Washtucna: Stubbs 3-36-1, Harder 5-60-1, Johnson 1-12-0, Holdren 5-57-1, Hostetler 7-115-0; Touchet: Hines 5-184-3, Flores 1-15-0.