Chiawana might not quite have the same caliber as they have in years past. After playing in two straight state championship games — winning the title two years ago — the Riverhawks are fighting just to make the playoffs this season.
They showed how much fight they had Friday night. Chiawana withstood a comeback bid from the upstart Hanford Falcons before finally pulling away in the final minutes.
Andrew Vargas capped his big night with a 39-yard touchdown run with 1:55 remaining in the game as the Riverhawks pulled out a hard-fought 49-35 win over the Falcons at Fran Rish Stadium.
The win gets Chiawana back to .500 on the season at 3-3 and 2-2 in the Mid-Columbia Conference. Meanwhile, Hanford falls to 4-2 and is also 2-2 in the conference.
Vargas was a workhorse all night for the Riverhawks, carrying the ball 43 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns. But it was his final run of the night that was his biggest.
After Hanford closed the gap to 42-35 with 2:15 remaining, the Riverhawks were facing a second down and 10. That’s when Vargas burst through the right side of the line and reached the end zone to all but put the game out of reach.
Vargas also had a 63-yard touchdown run in the game as the Riverhawks scored 21 fourth-quarter points.
Falcons start was a forgetful one. Hanford turned the ball over two times – and interception and a fumble – and also was penalized for a holding in the end zone which resulted in a safety. The Falcons offense managed just 17 yards of total offense in the first 12 minutes.
Chiawana capitalized on those mistakes and rushed out to a quick 14-0 lead thanks to two quick touchdowns and a safety.
With the clock turning to the second quarter, it also seem to turn the Falcons fortunes around. Hanford, on its first possession of the second quarter, got on the scoreboard with a 28-yard touchdown catch by Gavin Slack from freshman quarterback Joshua Fonner to cut the margin to 14-7.
The Falcons completely erased the slow start on their next drive, using 8 plays to go 76 yards for a touchdown, this time on a 12-yard run by Tayvonne Miller to tie the game.
The game went back-and-forth from there and Falcons tied the game at 28 late in the third quarter on a Miller 14-yard run.