SPOKANE — Second-ranked Lind-Ritzville-Sprague overcame a 7-0, first-quarter deficit Saturday night and registered a 21-14 quarterfinal victory over No. 4 DeSales in Class 2B football playoff action at rainy Gonzaga Prep High School.
Junior running back Connor O’Neill rushed for 80 of his game-high 101 yards in the second half as the Broncos successfully kept their undefeated status intact.
L-R-S will oppose defending state champion Waitsburg-Prescott in the state semifinals next weekend. W-P earned its semifinal berth on Saturday with a 39-12 triumph over Reardan.
“I hurt for our kids,” DeSales coach Mike Spiess said. “Give (Lind-Ritzville-Sprague) a lot of credit. They didn’t make mistakes.”
The Irish marched 60 yards in eight plays on the game’s opening series. Quarterback Jeremiah Cox hit wide receiver Kyler Pommerening with a 25-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-9 play with 8:14 left in the opening quarter. Paul Elmenhurst’s PAT kick gave DeSales a 7-0 lead.
On his team’s second possession, Cox directed DeSales from its 20-yard line to the Broncos’ 31. But the drive stalled in part because of a penalty for blocking below the waist.
One play after the infraction, Elmenhurst fielded a low snap out of punt formation at his 38. He went to one knee to take the snap, and was ruled down.
L-R-S took advantage and tied the game early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by O’Neill at the 7:35 mark.
The teams played on even terms the remainder of the half and went to intermission knotted at 7-7.
Both squads displayed solid play on defense. The Irish allowed just 73 yards of total offense while Lind-Ritzville-Sprague gave up only 133.
The Broncos negotiated 41 yards on their first possession of the third quarter and took their first lead of the contest on a 2-yard rush by O’Neill with 7:38 on the clock.
L-R-S’s defense yielded a first down, then forced a three-and-out, and its offense went back to work on the Bronco 29 following a DeSales punt. Seventy-one yards and 12 plays later, Lind-Ritzville-Sprague doubled its lead from 14-7 to 21-7 when quarterback Dylan Hartz and wide receiver Ryan Whitmore hooked up for a 14-yard passing touchdown with 10:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It took DeSales just two plays after the ensuing kickoff to pull within seven. Cox hit a streaking Pommerening down the right sideline for a 51-yard tally that made it 21-14 with 10:29 left.
“We didn’t get the momentum back until that long touchdown pass,” Spiess said.
The Irish had two more opportunities to equalize, but were denied by turnovers.
On the first, facing fourth-and-1 from the Bronco 21, running back Luke Fazzari rushed around left end for what would have been a first down at the 10. But L-R-S defenders managed to separate Fazzari from the ball and the Broncos made a drive-stopping fumble recovery.
DeSales’ final possession ended on a juggling interception by Jason Saetre at the L-R-S 3.
The Broncos ran out the final two minutes and change. Cort Ruzicka broke loose for a 58-yard run, O’Neill netted eight and seven yards on two running plays, and Hartz took a knee on the final play of the game.
“We made too many mistakes and don’t deserve to move on,” Spiess said.
Saturday’s game was the last for DeSales seniors Cox, Elmenhurst, Pommerening, Fazzari, Ryan Baumgart, Reilly Roach, Joe Duehn, Cody Josifek, and Tim Caudill.
“Our number one expectation is to have good leadership and a good work ethic,” Spiess said. “It starts with our seniors. They took it upon themselves to be good leaders. Our improved leadership effort (compared with a season ago) is a credit to our seniors.”
L-R-S 21, DeSales 14
DeSales 7 0 0 7 — 14
L-R-S 0 7 7 7 — 21
DeSales — Pommerening 25 pass from Cox (P. Elmenhurst kick).
L-R-S — O’Neill 1 run (Leffel kick).
L-R-S — O’Neill 2 run (Leffel kick).
L-R-S — Whitmore 14 pass from Hartz (Leffel kick).
DeSales — Pommerening 51 pass from Cox (P. Elmenhurst kick).
First downs 14 14.
Rushes-yards 17-5 44-192.
Passing yards 263 75.
Passes att-comp-int 28-18-1 12-7-1.
Punts 3-30 4-35.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties 7-63 5-50.
Rushing — DeSales: Fazzari 7-31, A. Elmenhurst 3-0, Cox 6-(-12), Team 1-(-14); L-R-S: O’Neill 22-101, Ruzicka 11-83, Hartz 9-11, Team 2-(-3).
Passing — DeSales: Cox 18-28-1, 263 yards, 2 TDs; L-R-S: Hartz 7-12-1, 75 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving — DeSales: Pommerening 4-100-2, Baumgart 4-48, Duehn 4-37, A. Elmenhurst 3-37, Fazzari 2-32, Scheel 1-9; L-R-S: O’Neill 4-47, Whitmore 1-14-1, Greenwalt 1-8, Ruzicka 1-6.