Coutresy of Tri-City Herald
Enoch Vargas racked up 173 passing yards, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another, and the Chiawana High School football team held off a surging Hanford squad to pick up a 26-7 win Friday night in MCC action at Fran Rish Stadium.
It was a bounce-back win for the Riverhawks, who fell in heartbreaking fashion to Kamiakin last week, 26-20 in double overtime.
“All week that was our mentality, we’ve gotta prove that we’re still playoff contenders,” said Vargas, a senior. “I think we showed that.”
While Vargas was able to sling the ball around the field pretty efficiently (completed 15 of 24 passes and didn’t turn it over), this was a pretty classic Chiawana win. Ethan Garcia and Tayden Jenkins carried the ball 12 times each, with the 3-inches taller and 35-pounds heavier Garcia gaining a game-high 72 of their combined 104 yards rushing.
And on defense, the Riverhawks were able to get after Hanford quarterback Garrett Horner with just three downed lineman (Chiawana recorded four sacks on the night and several hurries), which allowed them to drop back in coverage and keep the Falcons from playing pitch-and-catch, holding Horner to just 139 yards on 18-of-29 passing, after he came into the game averaging about 230 yards per contest.
“I thought the front guys put enough pressure on him (Horner) and made him throw the ball early some times, so that helps our secondary out,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said.
Graff noted how the attention to the pass rush and coverage scheme made the Riverhawks a little susceptible to the rush, which Jared DeVine and Drezdyn O’Daol took slight advantage of for 65 yards on their combined 19 carries.
The stifling defense, coupled with two Hanford fumbles and some critical penalties, set the Riverhawks’ offense up with short fields for much of the night, as none of their three touchdown drives started on their own end of the field.
“We just made mistakes that you can’t make against Chiawana,” Hanford coach Brett Jay said. It’s pretty simple stuff, but you keep making mistakes against good teams, and it costs you.”
After Hanford’s Thomas Kitchens fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Chiawana (3-1, 1-1) recovered, Garcia made the Falcons (2-2, 1-1) pay with four straight runs for 26 yards, the last of which he punched in from 1 yard out for the opening score.
Field goals of 27 and 33 yards by Ryan Lowry gave the Riverhawks a 13-0 advantage nearing the end of the first half, but that cued Hanford’s first successful drive of the game.
DeVine ripped off a couple big runs, and Garrett Horner started finding receivers deep down field, culminating in a 31-yard scoring strike to Kitchens to put the Falcons on the board and make it a 13-7 game before halftime.
“Our pass protection picked up there in the second quarter,” Jay said. “But it’s like one area at a time, whether it’s a missed blocking assignment or a missed route, or we don’t see something, it’ll hinder you, and it’s like we can’t get going all at once.”
And Chiawana finally took advantage of those miscues in the second half — after a fumble on their first drive, that is.
A 4-yard punt by Hanford set up an eventual 3-yard touchdown run by Vargas the second time Chiawana touched the ball, and senior wide out Tavin Blair made a 49-yard TD catch on the Riverhawks’ following possession that made it a 26-7 game, effectively putting it out of reach for Hanford.
Blair also came off the corner and sacked Horner to halt the momentum of a Falcons’ drive in the fourth quarter.
“He does a great job on both sides of the ball,” Graff said of Blair. “He caught that guy (Hanford cornerback) peaking in the backfield on that touchdown play and got by him. Enoch found him, we got a throw and a catch, and that’s the story.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Falcons, who face the defending Class 3A state champion and undefeated Kamiakin Braves next week. Chiawana will return to Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium to host the Kennewick Lions.
“These are the weeks I love, to be honest,” Jay said, “because you really get to see who stands up and who doesn’t. It’s a big week, and you go to Lampson ... so we’re right back at it. That’s why you’ve gotta love this conference.”