RITZVILLE — Lind-Ritzville-Sprague left little doubt that the road to the Class 2B football championship runs through the Broncos. L-R-S opened defense of their 2012 title with a convincing 41-14 defeat of DeSales here Friday in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We knew this would be a huge challenge for us,” Irish coach Mike Spiess said. “We were looking forward to it. You want to play the best team in the state and we did. They are bigger, stronger, and faster. They have a quality program. Our kids have to learn to compete with that.”
The Irish received the opening kickoff, but had to navigate in the face of a cold, howling, wind. A three-and-out forced a 29-yard punt into that wind, and the Broncos started at the Irish 24 following Logan Morley’s 25-yard punt return. Three plays later, Connor O’Neill went over from the four for a 6-0 L-R-S lead with 10:25 to play in the first.
On the ensuing Irish possession, Darryl Galloway was forced to run out of his own endzone on fourth down, and the Broncos went to work from the Irish 16. Dylan Hartz went the 16 yards on the first snap for a 14-0 Bronco lead with 8:04 left in the first.
The Irish went three-and-out, and L-R-S took over at its own 32. Cort Ruzicka ripped off a 19-yard gallop and the Broncos moved to the DeSales 49. Quarterback Hartz connected with Ryan Whitmore for eight yards and a score as L-R-S took command at 21-0 with 2:18 left in the first. Ruzicka finished the game with 148 rushing yards, all of which came in the first half.
“We were hopeful that we could get the ball to start the game and make some things happen,” Spiess said. “The opposite happened. We could’ve been playing in perfect conditions and it wouldn’t have mattered. These guys (the Broncos) are the best.”
The Broncos added three more scores to go to intermission in the rain and wind up 41-0.
With the running clock rule in effect, the Irish started their first second-half possession at the L-R-S 33 after a Bronco punt into the wind. Following a penalty and a play that lost three yards, quarterback Connor Richard connected with Galloway for 26 yards. Kaleo Healey ran three times for 13 yards, and Richard scored from the two to get the Irish on the board.
On the ensuing Bronco possession DeSales’ Chris Lopez scooped up a Bronco fumble at the L-R-S three and scooted in. Luis Contreras added his second PAT and the Irish went to the fourth down 41-14.
“I was concerned that we would come out in the second half and not compete,” Spiess said. “I was sure that (Bronco) coach (Greg) Whitmore would do a great job of playing all his kids, which he did. Our kids played hard regardless.”
The season turned into quite a ride for DeSales’ five seniors — the injured Adam Eskil, Galloway, Braden Kimball, Luis Contreras, and Matt Jubb. With the injury bug striking often, the Irish limped into their bye week at 3-3. DeSales won its next three to reach the 2B playoffs and the battle with the undefeated Broncos.
“I thought our guys really toughed it up this season with all the injuries,” senior lineman Jubb said. “I’m really proud of everyone for how hard they played. No one got down on each other. We kept each other up, and waited for guys to come back.”
“You feel bad when you look in the eyes of your seniors and realize this is it for them,” Spiess said. “They are down because they cared. Our seniors gave a lot to this program.”
The Irish finished 6-4 for the season.
“There were a lot of people that didn’t think (after being 3-3) that we could get into the bracket,” Spiess added. “Our coaches coached the kids real hard, and our kids played well enough to make it happen. The bottom line: it was a challenging season and a good season. I liked the way our kids responded from all the adversity. We have a good, young corps returning and we have to learn from our opponent and get bigger, stronger, and faster.”
“It was a great team,” Jubb said. “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
Lind-Ritzville-Sprague 41, Desales 14
DeSales 0 0 14 0 — 14
L-R-S 21 20 0 0 — 41
L-R-S — O’Neill 4 run (kick failed).
L-R-S — Hartz 16 run (O’Neill run).
L-R-S — Whitmore 8 pass from Hartz (Leffel kick).
L-R-S — O’Neill 12 run (Leffel kick).
L-R-S — Whitmore 5 pass from Hartz (Leffel kick).
L-R-S — Ruzicka 38 run (kick failed).
DeS — Richard 2 run (Contreras kick).
DeS — Lopez 3 fumble return (Contreras kick).
First downs 6 14
Rushes/yards 20-32 41-264
Passing yards 76 60
Passes (att-comp-int) 21-9-0 7-6-0
Punts 5-30.2 3-30.0
Fumbles/lost 3-1 3-1
RUSHING — DeS: Healey 12-29-1, Galloway 1-8, Richard 4-15, Team 3-(-20); L-R-S: Ruzicka 12-148-1, O’Neill 9-66-2, Hartz 3-15-1, Witt 7-11, Saetre 3-(-13), Rouleau 6-33, Killian 1-4.
PASSING — DeS: Richard 8-19-0, 67 yards, 0 TDs, Leahy 1-2-0, 9 yards, 0 TDs; L-R-S: Hartz 6-7-0, 60 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — DeS: Leahy 1-5, Koopman 2-20, Jacobson 2-14, Galloway 4-37; L-R-S: Whitmore 3-35-2, O’Neill 2-12, Ruzicka 1-13.