Chiawana downs Lewis & Clark, moves on to state playoffs

Steve Graff knew that he would have to rely on his defense one more time if he decided to kick a field goal in the closing minutes of Friday’s cross-over playoff game against Lewis & Clark.

So after initially deciding to go for three points that could have put the Riverhawks ahead 20-14, he opted to usher his offense back on the field facing a fourth-and-6 to go. Quarterback Prestone Vine delivered twice – the first completion for a first down was negated by a penalty – and connected with Aarloh Valdivinos for a 16-yard touchdown to put Chiawana ahead 24-14 with less than 3 minutes remaining the game.

Chiawana (8-2) added a late touchdown to push the final margin to 31-14 over the visiting Tigers (7-3) at Edgar Brown Stadium. The Riverhawks advance to the state playoffs and will learn their opponent later this weekend.

“We talked to everyone (about the fourth-down play), and they decided to go for it,” Graff said. “I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ ”


“It just showed we had a lot confidence in our offense … our guys,” Vine added.

On a night where nothing came easy for the Riverhawks, the key fourth-down conversion was no different. After the timeout, Chiawana appeared to have a first down when Vine hit Sisay West for a 14-yard pass play for a first down. However, the play was wiped out by offsetting penalties, and the teams replayed the down.

The second time around, Vine rolled out to the right and hit Valdivinos for the score.

The Riverhawks were flagged eight times for 70 yards.

“We had too many penalties and mental mistakes,” Graff said. “All the teams we will play are good teams, and we have to avoid mental lapses.”

The Riverhawks added a late touchdown run by A.J. Vongphacha to put the game out of reach with a 25-yard bolt up the middle.

Chiawana, which had one of the best defenses in the Mid-Columbia Conference this season, was again stout Friday night. The Riverhawks forced four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble) and buckled down when the Tigers entered the red zone.

Lewis & Clark came away with just two touchdowns in five trips inside the Chiawana 20-yard line.

“We made a few adjustments in the second half, and we knew where they wanted to go with the ball in key situations,” Graff said. “Our guys stepped up and made plays.”

Chiawana, the MCC league champions, took the early 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Vine found Bennie Alferness for a 51-yard touchdown. It was Vine’s first pass of the game.

The Riverhawks extended the lead to 14-0 on a 38-yard touchdown run by Gabe Schilz with 3:36 left in the first half. Schilz rushed 18 times for 81 yards and a score. He also had two interceptions on defense.

Chiawana locks up Mid-Columbia title

Chiawana completed its run to the Mid-Columbia Conference title on Friday night, beating Pasco 48-7 in the annual Gravel Pit Bowl at Edgar Brown Stadium.

The Riverhawks finish the regular season with a 7-1 MCC mark, and 7-2 overall.

Chiawana will play host to Lewis & Clark at 7 p.m. Friday at Edgar Brown Stadium in a 4A regional game, with the winner advancing to the state tournament and loser going home.

Against Pasco, Preston Vine and Gabe Schilz were each part of three touchdowns.

Vine rushed for an 81-yard score and tossed a 31-yard scoring strike to Bennie Alferness.

Schilz had TD runs of 10 and 20 yards.

And Vine connected with Schilz for a 27-yard TD pass.

Riverhawks kicker Ryan Lowry set a school record by kicking a 50-yard field goal.

Riverhawks take to the air to rout Braves

There are very few times that a Steve Graff-coached team has ever passed the football more than it has run it in a game.

Thursday night was one of those exceptions, though, as Graff’s Chiawana team went to the air against host Kamiakin.

It worked, as the Riverhawks stunned the Braves in a 42-0 Mid-Columbia Conference victory at Lampson Stadium.

The win gives Chiawana the temporary lead in the MCC standings, with a 6-1 record. Kamiakin falls to 4-3.

The key was taking it to the air from the get-go.

“If you’re going to play us man-to-man coverage instead of zone, and you’re going to bring six guys, then we’re going to throw the ball,” said Graff, referring to Kamiakin’s defensive scheme.

So to counter the aggressive Kamiakin blitzing, Chiawana would get rid of the ball fast to receivers on slant patterns or outs.

But it wasn’t Chiawana quarterback Preston Vine or backup JP Zamora who broke the scoreless tie. No, it was receiver Bennie Alferness. More to the point, it was his arm.

On the Riverhawks’ second possession of the game, Alferness went in motion, took the handoff from Vine in what looked like a fly sweep. But Alferness stopped and fired a long bullet to a streaking Dion Lee, who scored on the 54-yard play.

“Bennie did a great job of stepping up and getting the throw off,” said Graff. “We’ve had that play in our book all year. But we didn’t use it until tonight.”

Lee’s eyes lit up when he lined up on the play.

“We came out, and they only had one safety out high,” he said.

It put Kamiakin on its heels from that point on.

“We just killed ourselves all night,” said Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin. “Chiawana played a great game. We didn’t help ourselves at all. But they made us not play well.”

The Riverhawks defense did a number on the Braves, who failed to get a first down on their first three series. By the time they got one on Series No. 4, it was already 20-0 Chiawana.

The Riverhawks – who would score on five straight possessions – added an AJ Vongphachanh 4-yard TD run (keyed by a 40-yard Gabe Schilz romp down to the 8), and a fumble recovery in the end zone by Lee when Schilz, at the end of a 14-yard run, lost control of the ball diving for the goal line.

From there, Vine took control with three consecutive TD passes: a 45-yard thing of beauty to Schilz, who broke two tackles at the 15 and waltzed in; and a 54-yarder and 8-yarder to Kobe Young.

The last score, with 6:30 to play in the third quarter, activated the running clock.

“We just knew they were coming on every play,” said Vine, who finished with 204 yards passing. “They beat Hanford. We knew they could fly to the ball. They have athletes all around.”


But it was Chiawana’s athletes who played well Thursday. Graff especially liked his interior line play.

“Our guys played good up front on both offense and defense,” said Graff. “We executed well on both sides of the ball.”

Indeed. Young had eight catches for 89 yards. Vongphachanh added 3 tackles, 2 quarterback sacks, a hurry and a fumble recovery to go with his TD run.

But it was Schilz who had the monster game. He rushed for 108 yards on 11 carries, caught the 45-yard TD pass, and had an interception on defense.

Chiawana has Pasco next Friday at Edgar Brown and is guaranteed a home 4A regional playoff game Nov. 2.

Despite the loss, Kamiakin still has a shot at the 3A regional playoffs. The Braves will have to win at Hermiston next Friday.

“But we’ve got to play better than this,” said Biglin.

NOTES: Besides Schilz’s interception, Chiawana got two more picks off of Kamiakin QB Lucas Castilleja. Lee had one, and Marvell Cooks had the other at the 5 in the first half when the Braves were knocking at the door. … DB Kelen Rutz led Kamiakin defensively with 6 tackles and two pass breakups, while DB Blake Fabbri added 6 tackles. … Kamiakin was penalized just one time for 5 yards. Chiawana picked up 10 flags for 84 yards.

Riverhawks Crush Suns 44-0

CHIAWANA 44, SOUTHRIDGE 0: AJ Vongphachanh rushed for four touchdowns as visiting Chiawana beat Southridge at Lampson Stadium.

Vongphachanh scored on runs of 2, 33, 1 and 6 yards.

Riverhawks quarterback Preston Vine added two TD passes, including a 25-yard scoring strike to Bennie Alferness. Alferness was the team’s leading receiver with 3 catches for 61 yards.

Alex Teal led Southridge offensively with four receptions for 71 yards.

Defense gets Chiawana football back on the winning track - TCH Article

AJ Vongphachanh worked on defending the play all week long in practice.

The Chiawana senior linebacker knew what it looked like: When Hermiston quarterback Andrew James would fake a pass one way, he’d spin around and come back and dump the pass the other way for a screen play to his running back, Wyatt Noland.

“We had a good week of game film preparation,” said Vongphachanh. “Only, when we played against it all week long in practice, I kept dropping the ball.”

But on Friday night, at Edgar Brown Stadium, during the Riverhawks’ Homecoming game, Vongphachanh actually caught the pass this time.

His interception came just 5 yards away from the end zone, and the big fellow waltzed into the end zone for the touchdown. It was the play that gave the Riverhawks the lead for good in a 34-10 Mid-Columbia Conference football victory over Hermiston.

The win vaulted Chiawana back atop the MCC standings – tied with Hanford and Kamiakin, all three teams with 4-1 conference records.

Vongphachanh led a swarming Chiawana defense that held the MCC’s No. 2 offense to just 223 yards.

Noland, the conference’s leading rusher coming into the contest with 842 yards, was held to 82 yards on 25 carries.

“We had to stop their run game first,” said Chiawana coach Steve Graff.

It didn’t look good in the beginning, as James and Noland marched Hermiston 61 yards on 10 plays on the opening kickoff, with Noland going the final yard for a TD and a quick 7-0 Bulldogs lead.

But from there, Hermiston had 12 more possessions and got just a field goal out of it.

The other 11 possessions resulted in (in order) a fumble, a punt, a pick-6, a fumble, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, interception and punt.

In all, Chiawana turned four Hermiston turnovers into 28 points.

The key came three possessions in, with Vongphachanh’s pick-6 early in the second quarter. He said he knew what the play was when the offensive linemen released too soon. His TD turned a 7-6 Chiawana deficit into a 12-7 lead that was never relinquished.

As an added bonus, Vongphachanh bulled into the end zone on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt.

But the Riverhawks weren’t done.

On the ensuing kickoff, Chiawana sophomore Aidan Villarreal did a masterful job of popping the football out of the kick return man’s hands. Villarreal also grabbed the ball and ran it 24 yards down to the 2-yard line.

One play later, Riverhawks QB Preston Vine dived into the end zone for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

If anyone is counting, that was two touchdowns in just 14 seconds – an offensive explosion similar to what Chiawana had given up two weeks prior to Union and last week to Hanford in consecutive losses.

“I know how that feels,” said Graff. “It doesn’t feel good.”

Vine also understood that pain. It was his two passes intercepted by Hanford last week that helped provide the Falcons with an insurmountable 21-0 lead.

But on Friday, Vine was almost flawless, throwing TD passes of 22 yards (to Kobe Young), 7 yards (to Bennie Alferness), and 22 yards (to Dion Lee).

“We talked about setback, comeback this week,” said Vine. “Our line did an amazing job tonight, both in pass blocking and run blocking.”

For Hermiston, it was a rare occasion in which the Bulldogs had to try to make a comeback in a game.

“Those two special teams turnovers took the wind out of our sails,” said Hermiston coach David Faaeteete, whose team won the Oregon 5A state title last year. “They only had to go 20 yards and 1 yard after those turnovers. But aside from a few guys, a lot of our kids do not have the experience of playing in big games like this.”

However, at 4-2 the Bulldogs are still very much alive for one of the two Class 3A postseason playoff berths available to the MCC. And after a non-league game at home next Friday against Eisenhower, Hermiston still has key games at Hanford and at home against Kamiakin.

For Chiawana, the win was important in stopping a two-game losing streak.

“The biggest difference,” said Vongphachanh, “in the last two weeks was our game film preparation.”

NOTES: Vongphachanh was very much the star of the game. He had 7 tackles (one for loss), a quarterback sack, a hurry, a fumble recovery and an interception. He also rushed for 63 yards on just six carries. … Teammate Hunter Williams also had a strong game on the defensive line, with 7 tackles (two for loss) and a QB sack; LB Cameron Breier added 5 tackles, a QB sack and a pass breakup. … LB Ryan Arnold led Hermiston’s defense with 10 tackles (one for loss), while fellow LB Zane Davis added 9 tackles (one for loss) and a hurry. … Chiawana, which plays at Southridge next Friday, currently has ahold of the No. 2 playoff seed among MCC Class 4A teams.