Justin Smalley counted on one hand the number of times he touched the ball in Battle Ground’s season-opening loss to R.A. Long.
“Three times,” the senior running back said with a smile.
That game is well in the Tigers’ rear-view mirror now, and Smalley is playing a big role in their bounce back from two losses to start the season.
Smalley ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries Friday night as Battle Ground rolled to a 49-7 Greater St. Helens 4A victory over Heritage at McKenzie Stadium.
Three weeks after a breakout performance against Decatur (234 yards, 4 TDs), Smalley followed up with his third 100-yard rushing game for the Tigers.
“That Decatur game showed we could run on teams, and that we’re not just a passing team,” Smalley said. “Our line has really stepped it up. We knew they’d be small and aggressive, but we didn’t really know what we had in them. But we’ve had two major injuries, and our backups are playing their butts off.”
The Tigers (4-3, 2-1) also saw senior Colston Vukanovich throw for 204 yards and three touchdowns as they rolled up 444 yards of total offense and 19 first downs.
“I felt like from what we saw tonight, we could run the football,” BG coach Larry Peck said. “I felt good about our offensive balance in this game. It was a big game for our kids. We wanted to put some ghosts from the past away.”
Those ghosts included a 12-7 loss to the Timberwolves a year ago when the Tigers were stopped twice at the goal line in the final seconds.
Battle Ground also picked up a second league win for the first time in more than a decade.
Now comes a big test against Skyview next week, and Smalley knows what’s at stake.
“We are taking that game real serious,” he said. “That’s a playoff game straight up for us.”
It was Senior Night for Heritage (2-5, 0-3), and the Timberwolves seemingly got a boost when senior starting quarterback Loren Standiford was cleared to play Thursday, six days after suffering a concussion in a loss to Skyview.
Once Standiford got the green light, it was an easy call for coach Jack Hathaway to make.
“I was not going to take a guy who’s started for two years and have him lose his spot,” Hathaway said. “If we’d had to make changes (to our offense), I wouldn’t have played him.”
Standiford finished just 8 for 26 for 83 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Heritage finished with just 143 yards of total offense and seven first downs.
“That wasn’t our best effort on all sides of the game,” Hathaway said. “It’s pretty disappointing, but we’ll bounce back. Still we didn’t put forth enough effort to win any game tonight.”
After getting stopped on their opening drive of the game, Battle Ground scored on its next five possessions to lead 35-0 at halftime.
Smalley got the Tigers on the board with 5:18 left in the first quarter on a 4-yard TD run. BG made it 14-0 three minutes later when Parker Randle turned a simple middle screen into a 75-yard touchdown, bursting through a seam before jetting down the left sideline untouched.
After forcing a third straight three-and-out, Smalley scored again, this time on a 14-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Vukanovich then sandwiched TD passes of 45 yards to Colby Cahoon and 21 yards to Randle around an interception by Josh Lemar, and the rout was on.
“We blew one play, but otherwise, I felt good about our defensive game plan,” Peck said. “We have a lot of quickness, and we just stayed in our base defense and looked to see if we can chase some guys down.”
BATTLE GROUND 49, HERITAGE 7
Battle Ground 14 21 14 0–49
Heritage 0 0 7 0– 7
BG — Justin Smalley 4 run (Hayden Humphrey kick)
BG — Parker Randle 75 pass from Colston Vukanovich (Humphrey kick)
BG — Smalley 14 run (Humphrey kick)
BG — Colby Cahoon 45 pass from Vukanovich (Humphrey kick)
BG — Randle 21 pass from Vukanovich (Humphrey kick)
H — Elon Mack 42 pass from Loren Standiford (Bailey Thomason kick)
BG — Smalley 2 run (Humphrey kick)
BG — Fry Jonsson-Cook 8 run (Cole Hess kick)
RUSHING — Battle Ground, Smalley 24-157, Jonsson-Cook 7-46, Humphrey 2-11, Vukanovich 4-20, Chase Gunter 4-4, Taylor Lollar 1-2. Heritage, Jay Allen 7-17, Tiger Geeslin 5-9, Standiford 4-33, Kalani Umiamaka 1-6, Victor Duran 1-0, Nick Somboun 1-(minus 5).
PASSING — Battle Ground, Vukanovich 7-9-0-204. Heritage, Standiford 8-26-1-83.
RECEIVING — Battle Ground, Cahoon 4-96, Randle 2-96, Humphrey 1-12. Heritage, Duran 4-28, Race Bynum 2-12, Mack 1-42, Somboun 1-1.