WALLA WALLA — Respectable defense, third-quarter trickery and a fourth-quarter field goal were the difference Friday night as DeSales opened its 2013 football season with a 9-8 victory over La Salle at Ty Baffney Field.
The Irish limited the Lightning to 215 yards of total offense, Jackson Kent hit Isaiah Scheel with a 61-yard touchdown pass with 3:20 remaining in period three, and Luis Contreras booted a 31-yard field goal at the 6:15 mark of the final frame to put the home team into the winner’s circle.
DeSales prevailed despite just 193 offensive yards, three turnovers, and a first-quarter back injury suffered by starting running back Andrew Elmenhurst that resulted in a 25-minute delay in play and the junior being taken to a hospital by ambulance. Coach Mike Spiess listed Elmenhurst’s status for future action as “questionable” after the game.
The Lightning defense produced the game’s first points on a safety with 9:54 showing on the first-quarter clock.
La Salle tallied its only touchdown of the game four plays after an Irish free kick. Facing fourth-and-one at the DeSales 40-yard line, Lightning quarterback Daniel Boutillier tossed a pass in the right flat that was deflected and snagged by receiver Gus Bonny, who raced down the sideline and into the end zone at the 7:46 mark.
A failed PAT kick kept the score at 8-0.
DeSales had its best offensive thrust late in the second quarter when it drove from its 32 to the Lightning 14. But the threat ended with an interception.
“It was an interesting game,” Spiess said. “A lot of things went wrong early. La Salle deserves a lot of credit. They were playing faster than us early in the game.”
The Irish pulled within two points on their third possession of the third quarter. Kent, a wide receiver, claimed the ball from quarterback Connor Richard, rolled to his right, and launched a pinpoint strike to a wide-open Scheel.
“I needed the courage to call it,” Spiess said of the trick play. “I thought it was necessary at the time.”
While the DeSales defense continued to keep the La Salle offense in check, its special teams came up big to set up what proved to be the game-winning points. Adam Eskil grabbed a punt at the Lightning 45 and returned it 28 yards to the 17.
After a pair of incompletions, Richard hit Scheel for a 6-yard gain to the 11.
The Irish lined up for a field-goal try on fourth down, but soon went back on offense when the Lightning were flagged for an offside penalty that gave DeSales a first down on the 6.
Following a sack and two incomplete passes, Contreras hammered a 3-point kick through the goal posts for the final points of the game.
“Luis’ field goal was awesome,” Spiess said.
La Salle did not threaten on its final two series of the contest and gained just 12 yards on those possessions.
Richard, making his first varsity start, muscled down the final minute-and-a-half plus with rushes of 8, 9, and 6 yards.
Offensively, the Irish netted just 22 yards rushing. Richard completed 12-of-31 passes for 110 yards and threw two picks.
Scheel caught four passes for 89 yards. In all, six DeSales receivers gathered in at least one aerial.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively,” Spiess said. “We have a lot of issues on offense that are correctable. It’s been a long time since we’ve struggled that much to run the ball.
“Connor is going to do a good job,” Spiess said. “He’s going to do some good things.”
The Irish travel to White Salmon next Saturday for a tilt with Oregon Class 3A powerhouse Blanchet Catholic of Salem. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
DeSales 9, La Salle 8
La Salle 8 0 0 0 — 8
DeSales 0 0 6 3 — 9
La Salle — Safety: DeSales recovered fumble in end zone.
La Salle — G. Bonny 40 pass from Boutillier (kick failed).
DeSales — Scheel 61 pass from Kent (run failed).
DeSales — Contreras 31 field goal.
First downs 10 11
Rushes/yards 35-127 27-22
Passing yards 88 171
Passes (att-comp-int) 20-6-0 32-13-2
Punts 5-29.8 4-30.3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 11-78 4-19
RUSHING — La Salle: Wellner 23-112, Frame 2-16, Lighty 1-12, Klebaum 3-3, Boutillier 6-(-16); DeS: Richard 12-3, Healy 10-18, Scheel 2-5, Elmenhurst 2-1, Team 1-(-5).
PASSING — La Salle: Boutillier 6-20-0, 88 yards, 1 TD; DeS: Richard 12-31-2, 110 yards, 0 TDs, Kent 1-1-0, 61 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING — La Salle: Lighty 2-23, Vargas 2-23, Bonny 1-40-1, Gasseling 1-2; DeS: Scheel 4-89-1, Kent 3-13, Lopez 2-15, Eskil 2-11, Jacobson 1-22, Koopman 1-21.