Riverhawks coaches sat him during practice this week because of back spasms and were careful to monitor him closely during a key MCC matchup with Walla Walla on Friday at Edgar Brown Stadium.
But his offensive line — Anthony Reisch, Julian Benitez, Ford Powers, Josh Alvarez and Cameron Silvers — kept him safe most of the night, giving him room to run for 201 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries in a 36-13 win over the Blue Devils.
“Honestly, I expect a lot of my line. We’re young, but without them I’m not going anywhere,” Vargas said. “I wasn’t even touched on two of my touchdowns. I’m happy about that.”
Chiawana led 28-0 at the half and built it to 36-0 before Wa-Hi tacked on two second-half scores.
Defensive lineman Jimmy Aikala forced a Blue Devils fumble, which Bryce Buckley recovered, to set up the Riverhawks’ first score, a 22-yard run by Vargas. Aikala later tackled Walla Walla running back Sam Hoe in the end zone for a safety.
“This was an important game for us against another 4A team. We wanted to get that second (playoff) spot,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said. “We played really well at times and dropped the ball on the ground a few times. We lose focus a little bit on defense. We have to play a full 48 minutes someday.
“We’ll keep working at it.”
Leading 7-0, Chiawana fell short on their next two drives until Vargas pulled the trigger on a 58-yard touchdown run with 4:30 left in the second quarter, triggering an offensive explosion to end the half.
After the Riverhawks forced a Wa-Hi punt, Troy Simpkins hit Roman Ruiz for a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 with just 2:19 left. Chiawana still found time to punch in one more score, a 1-yard plunge by Vargas 9 seconds before the half.
“Our offensive line controlled the game. Vargas didn’t get touched, so they really won this game,” said Simpkins, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 178 yards.