Cougar football is 3-0, wins first league gameConventional wisdom had Pine Eagle as the second tough game of the season for Wallowa, Dufur being the first. Well, the results were close to the same, and conventional wisdom is going to have to take the month off. The Cougars shut down the Spartans 58-16 in another runaway win for the Wallowa football team.
It wasn't a pretty game, in the sense that mistakes were made on both sides, but Wallowa came in and played with a lot more heart. The biggest weakness visible from the sidelines, shown equally by both teams, was a lack of solid hitting. Low blocks were a rarity and those bone-crunching hits fans live for were absent. Still, Wallowa's offense was not about to be stopped by Pine Eagle without more effort than the Spartans brought to bear.
Spartan head coach Blake Dennis was less than thrilled with his team's showing at Wallowa's homecoming.
"We've got about three guys that played their hearts out ... the rest of this team needs to decide if it wants to play football," Dennis said. Pine Eagle, on paper at least, had the advantage of both size and experience, with a bigger, older team sporting more seniors and eight more men on its roster. None of that seemed to come into play.
Wallowa head coach Greg Oveson was, overall, happy with the way his team played, but he's already looking ahead toward taking Joseph on at home in two weeks. The Eagles are a threat to dominate District 4 this year, if they can harness their talent to the unfamiliar tactics of eight-man.
Cougar players were tougher on themselves, and did comment on the lack of solid hits during the matchup.
"We weren't hitting," reflected junior Patrick Green after the game, and sophomores Kainoa Delatori and Kaleb Oveson agreed. "I think this was probably the weakest game for us defensively so far," Green said.
Weak hits or not, they got the job done. Defenders were almost always on their man when they needed to be.
The highlights of the game look a little like an NFL blooper reel for the Spartans, with the tone of the game set in concrete on the initial kickoff, which WHS senior Ryan Harshfield took on the Cougar ten yard line and ran back 94 yards for a touchdown, putting Wallowa up six points only 15 seconds into the game.
Pine Eagle turned around, got the ball first and goal inside the Wallowa 10, and was stopped a foot outside the end zone.
Wallowa took the ball from its own end zone and marched it downfield with a fairly balanced mix of running and passing, and Harshfield racked up another six points at 5:54 in the first.
Pine Eagle scored late in the first and began to climb out of the hole they'd dug for themselves, making the score 14-8 Wallowa, but then it all proceeded to go horribly wrong. Set to score, Spartan quarterback Brad Casch lofted a pass into the end zone, only to have it intercepted by Cougar sophomore Geoffrey Long. A few plays later, Green found Harshfield on a slant pass and Harshfield, juking a few defenders, ran it 49 yards for what everyone thought was another score. The referees called the touchdown back, though. So Wallowa just buckled down and did it all over again, with Green going to sophomore Kaleb Oveson for the score that counted.
The Spartans took it into the Wallowa red zone, and, again, couldn't make it across that last 10 yards of orange and black jerseys.
The Cougar offense wasted no time, and Green found Long on a pass pattern. Long then worked it another 85 yards downfield for a touchdown.
It couldn't get any worse, you'd think. As it happens, it could.
Pine Eagle, first and goal on the Cougar 10 with 3:50 left in the second quarter, had a man open; Casch made the pass attempt and Oveson intercepted, going 100 yards for a touchdown with 46 seconds left in the first half. Pine Eagle immediately fumbled in their own red zone and the turnover led to another three-yard touchdown run by Long with 11 seconds left.
With the score 44-8 at the half, the game was - even in eight-man - pretty much over. The unseasonable heat took the edge off both teams and the second half went quietly, with two more Cougar touchdowns in the third quarter and a final one for the Spartans with 1:20 left in the fourth.
Wallowa's next matchup will be versus the Eagles on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m in Joseph.