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.