BATTLE GROUND — Columbia River found its rhythm on Friday.
The beat had the Chieftains dancing and their opponent stumbling.
Columbia River forced seven turnovers in a dominating 35-12 win over Prairie at District Stadium.
Coach John O’Rourke said the Chieftains (6-1, 3-0) have played well in spurts, but nothing close to a complete game.
“We came pretty close tonight,” he said.
Columbia River is finding its groove at the right time. With two weeks to play in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League season, River and Mountain View are on a collision course for a Nov. 1 game that will likely decide the league title.
Leading 14-6 at halftime, Columbia River took control with two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the second half.
River’s defense set the table for the offense. An interception on the third play after halftime set up a 31-yard touchdown catch by Nathan Hawthorne from Jonathan Branson.
The following drive, receiver Marcus Gaylor scored on an 18-yard fly sweep run.
Two drives. Two speed-based touchdowns. Game over.
“Rhythm is everything with our offense,” said Gaylor, who also had a first-half touchdown. “We have so much speed and potential. We’re individuals, but we all came together when we needed to.”
Prairie (3-4, 1-2) found early success running up the middle. Ronnie Evenden had 88 yards on his first seven carries, including a two-yard touchdown that put the Falcons ahead 6-0.
But that was all for Prairie until a 65-yard fumble return in the game’s final minute.
River’s defense pitched a shutout in the final three quarters. The Chieftains forced five fumbles, one of which Jeffrie Ringold returned 85 yards to put River ahead 35-6 late in the third quarter. It put the game away after Prairie had tried to mount a last-gasp charge with a long drive.
“The key on defense was that we finished our tackles,” said Ringold. “We’re hyped for these games. We’ve been doing better each week, and this was one step further.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 35, PRAIRIE 12
Col. River 0 14 21 0—35
Prairie 6 0 0 6—12
P — Ronnie Evenden 2 run (kick failed)
CR — Marcus Gaylor 9 pass from Jonathan Branson (Nathan Pyles kick)
CR — Jon. Branson 4 run (Pyles kick)
CR — Nathan Hawthorne 31 pass from Jon. Branson (Pyles kick)
CR — Gaylor 18 run (Pyles kick)
CR — Jeffrie Ringold 85 fumble recovery (Pyles kick)
P — Hayden Perrins 65 fumble recovery (kick failed)
RUSHING – Columbia River: Jayson Branson 13-72, Jon. Branson 8-39, Gabe Evenson 3-15, Gaylor 1-18, Vincent Daniels 4-0, John Niemela 1-10. Prairie: Evenden 21-147, Dallas Goodpaster 9-55, Brendan Bussey 1-2, Jason Bracken 1-minus 1, Denzel Hamiel 6-25.
PASSING – Columbia River: Jon. Branson 9-13-91, Evenson 1-1-4, Niemela 1-1-5. Prairie: Tyler Armstrong 3-10-61-2.
RECEIVING – Columbia River: Jay. Branson 1-3, Nathan Hawthorne 4-49, Gaylor 2-13, Dante Coleman 2-9, Vincent Daniels 1-5, Ringold 1-21. Prairie: Bracken 1-52, Goodpaster 1-0, Hamiel 1-9.