KENNEWICK — Waitsburg-Prescott dug itself a 21-0 hole after one quarter here at Lampson Stadium in Class 2B semifinal football action.
Lind-Ritzville-Sprague made it stand up as the Broncos advanced to the title game with a 21-7 defeat of W-P Saturday.
L-R-S plays Morton-White Pass, whom W-P defeated for the 2011 title, for the 2012 2B championship Friday.
W-P forced a Bronco punt on the first possession of the game, but following a Dalton Estes 38-yard punt, the Broncos went to work from their own 29. Quarterback Dylan Hartz hit Cort Ruzicka in the flat along the far side line and Ruzicka turned the toss into a 54-yard gain to the W-P seven. Conner O’Neill took it the rest of the way for a 6-0 L-R-S lead with 4:32 left in the first.
“I put us in a defense that I thought would work,” W-P coach Jeff Bartlow said. “We had trouble getting the back out covered. The linebackers had to recognize the back out to the flat, and that hurt us.”
W-P coughed up the football on its next possession and Hartz recovered at the Bronco 45. Six plays later, Hartz connected with Ruzicka for a 20-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 25 seconds left in the quarter.
On the next W-P offensive snap, Stirling Eastman’s pass was a little behind Dalton Estes, and when Estes couldn’t haul it in, the Broncos’ Hartz did. Hartz took the interception back 60 yards for the Broncos second touchdown in 12 seconds.
“We knew they were going to be tough,” Estes said. “We were expecting a good ball club, but we didn’t know they would be that tough. Their kids are great ball players, and I expect them to win it all.
“We knew we had to win the turnover margin to win this game,” Estes added. “And we didn’t.”
Estes punted on the first W-P possession of the second and W-P forced its first turnover of the game. Jesse Rawson fell on a muffed Bronco fair catch attempt and W-P had the ball back at the Bronco 43.
A roughing the punter penalty kept the W-P drive alive and gave W-P a first down at the L-R-S 31. But it was not to be on this night as Hartz came up with his second interception at his own five to thwart the W-P drive.
The defense kept W-P in this one as the Bronco’s marched to the W-P 14, but W-P held and took over at its nine.
“Our team has been through so much adversity,” Estes said of W-P’s fight after being down 21-0 at the half. “I’ve never seen so many kids on one team become so many brothers that fought through so many things.”
“Our kids stepped up defensively and made a game of it,” Bartlow said. “They never quit and they are not quitters. I’m going to miss the seniors as they’ve done nothing but win since they’ve been here.”
W-P came out of intermission and dominated the third quarter, running 24 plays from scrimmage to the Broncos’ eight.
“We said we could win the game,” Bartlow said of the intermission talk. “We told them ‘keep them at 21 and give our offense a chance.’ That’s what we did.”
“The third quarter has always been our quarter,” Estes said. “We just couldn’t get anything clicking.”
Eastman left with a dislocated finger and Estes took over at quarterback. Estes ran for 12 and Chance Leroue ran for 30 on a W-P drive that stalled at the Bronco 29.
Eastman returned for the last W-P drive of the third. Estes ran for 27 yards, including nine on a fake punt that converted a fourth-and-five from the W-P 45, and Eastman hit James Thompkins for 14 as the third ended with W-P knocking on the door at the Bronco 17.
A penalty and a six-yard completion to Roy Ebong left W-P with a fourth-and-six at the L-R-S 13. Eastman was flushed out of the pocket and threw a pass up for grabs. Leroue leaped and outbattled the Bronco defense for the first and only W-P score.
“Chance just went up and got it,” Bartlow said of the touchdown. “(Eastman) didn’t want to take a sack and he did a great job. That turned out to be our best play of the night.”
The W-P defense forced a fumble at the goal line that Ebong recovered to keep L-R-S at 21 with 2:13 to play.
W-P just could not muster the big play against the Bronco defense on this night.
“They (L-R-S) were in a cover four and they didn’t allow us to throw over the top,” Bartlow said. “We couldn’t get the ball to our receivers. We didn’t execute as well as we usually do. We had trouble getting the ball to our play makers in space.”
For the 11 W-P seniors, the loss caps careers that have seen two runs to the semifinals and a championship over the last three seasons and an 11-2 finish this season.
“In my entire football career, we’ve gone 45-7,” senior co-captain Estes said. “My senior class has been a great group of kids. I’ve had so much fun with this team that I can go home and be happy.”
“It was a great season and I’ll never forget it,” Bartlow echoed. “It didn’t get to where the kids wanted to finish at the Tacoma Dome, but I give our kids credit for staying the course. I love them. This year is as special as it gets.”