Every coach hopes to add an element of surprise into their game plan, especially against a league opponent.
Columbia River did that, and then some.
The Chieftains debuted two dynamic receivers in Ty Allen and Jack Armstrong, and each caught a touchdown pass, as Columbia River, buoyed by its defense, upended 2A Greater St. Helens League opponent Washougal 14-13 in a come-from-behind effort at Chieftain Stadium on Friday night.
“We had new guys coming back,” River quarterback Dawson Lieurance said. “We knew it was definitely going to be our surprise, our secret weapon. We knew we were going to take that and use it to our advantage.”
Armstrong intially took the season off to focus on basketball. But by week 3, he missed the game enough to rejoin the team and work his way back into game shape Friday night. Allen, a senior, recently passed eligibility requirements for the first time this season.
Each made an impact in their returns. And in a battle of defenses, any little advantage went a long way.
Both offenses sputtered through the first quarter, the defenses delivering sharp tackles and tight coverage.
“Defensively, they keep us in just about every game,” River coach Christian Swain said.
The Chieftains trailed 13-7 at half. After recovering an onside kick to start the third quarter, River’s offense threw picks on two of its next three drives, stunting efforts to narrow the score, and short-changing its defense, which delivered stops on all five possessions in the second half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Columbia River got the ball back with 10:34 remaining and ripped a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a six-yard touchdown pass to Armstrong to pull ahead 14-13 with 5:49 to play.
Defense turned into offense.
River’s platoon of quarterbacks traded series’ early, then after Lieurance proved to be the hot hand, he took more series’. Matt Asplund, who started, delivered too. Lieurance completed 10 of 28 passes for 81 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown; Asplund went 5 for 9 for 58 yards and a score.
The drive, too, was set up by a 32-yard strike to Tristan Hoyer from Asplund, followed by an 18-yard run by Jackson Fobbs.
Throughout the second half, when Washougal appeared poised to strike, the Chieftains defense stood tall.
Lieurance’s pass was intercepted by Brevan Bea and taken back to the River eight yard linewith kist under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Chieftains held the Panthers to a field goal, which was blocked and ran back by Tyrehl Vaivao to the opposite 45-yard line.
Vaivao, who moved from nose guard to his natural linebacker at half due to injury, said picking up the blocked field goal, which he ran back to the opposite 48 before being dragged down, reminded him of playing fullback last season for Jefferson (Ore.), where he was the PIL defensive player of the year.
His part in that play helped change the game for the Chieftains, who at that point were still down six.
“I really thought we were going to pull the game out, that blocked field goal helped them out,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said.
After River scored the go-ahead, the Panthers reclaimed possession with 5:43 left. They drove 30 yards before a pass on third and six was overthrown, and River’s Monyell Hedgmon lunged forward to make the interception.
Jakob Davis, Washougal’s tough, dynamic receiver, was often left in single coverage – a gamble that paid off as River defensive backs did enough to keep his contributions null beyond his two 30-plus yard catches (one a touchdown) in the first half.
River drowned out the clock from there, even converting a game-sealing fourth and five conversion – a hitch route from Lieurance to Armstrong – helped the Chieftains hold on.
Last year’s result, a 17-0 Washougal win at Fishback Stadium, was still fresh in the Chieftains’ mind. It was one of the contributors to the three-way tie for the second and third place that forced a playoff and this season, Columbia River knew it would reap the benefits of a week 6 win over the Panthers down the road.
River improves to 4-2 on the season Washougal moves to 3-3 overall, 1-2 in league.
“We knew this was a great game for the playoffs and league standings,” Swain said.
Watch highlights from the game here:
COLUMBIA RIVER 14, WASHOUGAL 13
Washougal 3 10 0 0 – 13
Columbia River 0 7 0 7 – 14
W – Preston Thornton 25 FG
CR – Tiajaie Allen 24 pass from Dawson Lieurance (Cade Lujan kick)
W – Jakob Davis 35 pass from Dalton Payne (Thornton kick)
W – Thornton 31 FG
CR – Jack Armstrong 6 pass from Matt Asplund (Lujan kick)
RUSHING — Washougal: Peter Boylan 13-58, Dalton Payne 4-32, Brevan Bea 10-24, Julien Jones 1-0. Columbia River: Colby Rabitoy 3-1, Matt Asplund 4-(-3), Jackson Fobbs 4-20, Jarrett Seelbinder 4-34, Kaleb Kier 2-(-4), Dawson Lieurance 1-5, Isaac Bibb-O’Neil 2-4, Will Buss 1-5.
PASSING — Washougal: Dalton Payne 10-28-1-131. Columbia River: Matt Asplund 5-9-1-58, Dawson Lieurance 7-17-1-81.
RECEIVING — Washougal: Aiden Kestner 5-35, Jakob Davis 2-65, Peter Boylan 2-16, Julien Jones 1-21, Judson Mansfield 2-5. Columbia River: Tristan Hoyer 1-32, Jarrett Seelbinder 1-8, Jack Armstrong 3-22, Ty Allen 1-24, Blake Bryan 2-22, Kanen Eaton 4-29, Will Buss 1-5.