By JIM BUCHAN
of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
TOUCHET - After last weekend's brief, autumn-like respite high up in the Wallowa Mountains, summer was back in full force here Friday afternoon on the first calendar day of fall.
But the searing sun and temperatures that ticked into the lower 90s had no adverse affect on the Touchet Indians. They were as red-hot as the weather.
Led once again by junior burner Vicente Flores, who perhaps sensed that his time on the field would be limited, the Indians struck early and often in their 52-8 thrashing of Sunnyside Christian to open the Southeast 1B League football campaign.
Flores only touched the ball three times in the contest - a modest 4-yard run from scrimmage, a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 40-yard pass interception return for a TD - before coach Gary Dorman exiled him to the bench in a vain attempt to keep the game reasonably close.
But it was to no avail as the Indians closed out the Knights in the final seconds of the third quarter when Elias Martinez's 22-yard touchdown run boosted Touchet's lead to the final 52-8 tally and invoked the 40-point mercy rule.
It was the third straight victory for the high-rolling Indians, who opened their season here two weeks ago with a 50-8 mercy rule-decision over Condon and then walloped Wallowa 50-28 last weekend on the Cougars' home field, an outcome not nearly as close as the score indicates.
Dorman, now in his third season as Touchet's head coach, went into Friday's game with two objectives: Reduce his team's penalty yardage (from five flags for 48 yards versus Condon and eight for 88 yards at Wallowa) and decide between junior Octavio Preciado and sophomore Elias Martinez as his starting quarterback heading into the teeth of the Indians' 2011 schedule.
"We wanted to clean up our penalties, and I think we did that," the coach said. "We didn't get to run a whole lot of offensive plays, but we did a better job of keeping our hands in blocking."
The Indians were whistled for three five-yard penalties Friday; two of them were dead-ball penalties when kickoffs went out-of-bounds and the third was an illegal motion penalty on an extra-point try.
"As far as quarterback is concerned, I think the job is Octavio's to lose," Dorman added. "He is just pretty smooth back there, But I think I did learn today that with Elias back there, we don't have that much to worry about."
Dorman regards Preciado as a more gifted runner than Martinez, while Martinez possesses the stronger arm. But so far there has been little to separate the two quarterbacks.
They've each rushed for 111 yards on the season, with Preciado passing for 156 yards and three touchdowns and Martinez 148 yards and three scores. Between them, they've completed 10-of-11 passes with no interceptions.
With either calling signals, Flores remains the team's lightning rod. In three games, the 175-pound junior has rushed the ball 10 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 164 yards and three TDs and has five return touchdowns.
Friday's pass interception return for a score was Flores' second of the season. He also returned two kickoffs for scores last week in Wallowa and had a punt return for a touchdown against Condon.
"He's (Flores) our speed guy," Dorman said. "We like to get the ball in his hands whenever we can."
But Flores is not the only ace in Dorman's deck.
Sandwiched between Flores' two touchdowns was a 74-yard TD run by 200-pound junior running back Jose Martinez, who finished the game with 91 rushing yards on three carries.
"He's a load to bring down," Dorman said of his top running back.
Two sophomore runners also played key offensive roles Friday.
Colton Goble pounded out 59 rushing yards on seven carries, including a 9-yard TD run, and ran for three two-point conversions.
Edgar Rincon rushed four times for 59 yards, including a 28-yard TD run, and caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Elias Martinez - the Indians only pass attempt of the game.
"We've got a lot of guys who are playing positions for the first time," Dorman said. "And they are learning fast."
Sunnyside Christian posted its only score on its first possession of the second half when backup-quarterback Joel Martin, a freshman, passed deep over the middle to sophomore Wyatt Hoff, who had started the game at QB, for a 47-yard touchdown.
Next up for the Indians is a trip to St. John-Endicott for another league game on Friday.
Sunnyside Christian, now 1-2 on the season, plays at Pomeroy the same night.
Touchet 52, Sunnyside Christian 8
Sunnyside Christian 0 0 8 x - 8
Touchet 32 6 14 x - 52
Tou - Flores 71 punt return (J. Martinez run).
Tou - J. Martinez 74 run (Goble run).
Tou - Flores 40 pass interception return (Goble run).
Tou - Goble 9 run (Goble run).
Tou - Rincon 28 run (run failed).
SSC - Hoff 47 pass from Martin (Newhouse run).
Tou - Rincon 10 pass from E. Martinez (E. Martinez run).
Tou - E. Martinez 22 run (PAT not attempted).
Touchet Sunnyside Christian
First downs 11 13
Rushes/yards 37-159 28-292
Passing yards 49 10
Passes (att-comp-int) 10-2-3 1-1-0
Punts 2-35.5 0-0
Fumbles-lost 5-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 0-0 3-15
RUSHING - Sunnyside Christian: Bosma 7-21, Newhouse 23-124, Hoff 1-(-12), Martin 4-20, Wavrin 1-11, Bangs 1-(-5); Touchet: Flores 1-4, J. Martinez 3-91, Goble 7-59, Valasquez 4-19, E. Martinez 4-41, Rincon 4-59, Butler 5-19.
PASSING - Sunnyside Christian: Hoff 1-3-2, 2 yards; Martin 1-7-1, 47 yards, 1 touchdown. Touchet: E. Martinez 1-1-0, 10 yards, 1 touchdown.
RECEIVING - Sunnyside Christian: Martin 1-2-0, Hoff 1-47-1; Touchet: Rincon 1-10-1.