BATTLE GROUND — It might’ve been a crazy game, the Prairie Falcons admit, but what isn’t crazy about Friday night’s league opener at District Stadium is the win.
Most notably, the statement win the Falcons believe they made.
That’s because a 38-22 victory over Kelso at District Stadium in both teams’ 3A Greater St. Helens League football opener now puts the Falcons at 5-0.
That’s right — 5-0 — for a program that last had that mark through five games in 1984. That Prairie team went 6-3.
But Prairie has more on its sights after defeating a Kelso program its lost to the past seven seasons.
“I’m ecstatic,” junior Dustin Shelby said. “It feels so nice to finally, after so long, to be that team and it feels really good to be undefeated and going strong.”
Prairie (5-0 overall, 1-0 league) racked up 525 total yards, including 338 in the first half when it scored 30 first-half points, 22 in the second quarter, and two scores off the first play from scrimmage. One of those was Shelby on an 80-yard touchdown run and the other came off trickery: Devante Clayton’s halfback pass to Ian Davis for the 40-yard score.
Kelso (4-1 overall, 0-1 league) had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons after Aberdeen, its Week 4 opponent, forfeited. While Prairie’s largest lead came at 30-7, Kelso roared back to pull within 30-22 using trickery of its own before the Falcons put things to rest late in the fourth quarter.
Prairie not only made its statement on offense, defense and special teams, but how to finish games. Prairie’s defense held Kelso’s all-league running back — Josh Webb — to just 22 yards on the night, and quarterback Marshall Coleman went 4 of 13 passing.
Friday tested the Falcons in big ways, including learning how to be a better second-half team and how to close out games.
“The last four games,” senior lineman Connor French said, “we haven’t finished out our games. We can finish out games.”
Friday could mean a lot for the league-title race, too. Up next is hosting three-time reigning league champion Mountain View — a program that hasn’t dropped a league game since moving down to Class 3A in 2016.
After Friday, these Falcons are ready.
“We were confident in ourselves,” Shelby said, “But this was just a huge game to show that we are a legit team, a legit contender.”
— Prairie breathed a sigh of relief when AJ Dixson ran for a 53-yard touchdown down the right side on a second-and-20 play with 3:24 remaining. That gave Prairie a 38-22 lead. Before that, Kelso climbed back from a three-score deficit to 30-22 minutes into the third quarter.
— Trickery was in the cards for both teams Friday. In addition to a Devante Clayton’s halfback pass to Ian Davis for a 40-yard score, Kelso went 1 for 2 successfully completely trick plays. A hook-and-ladder for 69 yards from Marshall Coleman to Nick Miller and then the ladder to Josh Webb for 65 yards. That play pulled Kelso within a touchdown.
— Kelso had more yards on its first touchdown — a special-team score by Colby Cooper — than total offense in the first half. The Hilanders were held to 45 first-half yards, but got a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown by Cooper in the second quarter. AJ Dixson’s punt officially went 1 yard and recovered his own punt. But the play wasn’t blown dead yet when Cooper picked up the ball and ran it back 57 yards.
Dustin Shelby: The Prairie junior had 140 yards on 11 carries, including his 80-yard touchdown run that pushed Prairie’s lead to 22-7 in the first half. The Falcons scored 22 points in the second quarter.
Josh Webb: The Kelso running back was held to a season-low 22 yards by Prairie’s defense. Webb entered Friday with 385 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I saw him run down the sideline, it was instant relief. Like I was on vacation.” — Dustin Shelby, watching AJ Dixson score ona 53-yard touchdown run on second-and-20 with 3:24 left in the game.
PRAIRIE 38, KELSO 22
Kelso 0 7 7 8 — 22
Prairie 8 22 0 8 — 38
P — Devante Clayton 2 run (Ian Davis pass from AJ Dixson)
P — AJ Dixson 1 run (pass failed)
K — Colby Cooper 57 punt return (Kevin Aguilar kick)
P — Dustin Shelby 80 run (Zeke Dixson pass from AJ Dixson)
P — Ian Davis 40 pass from Clayton (Treyce Teague pass from AJ Dixson)
K — Conner Noah 2 run (Aguilar kick)
K — Josh Webb 65 pass from Marshall Coleman (run failed)
P — AJ Dixson 56 run (Shelby run)
RUSHING: Kelso — Josh Webb 12-22, Conner Noah 5-15, Marshall Coleman 7-4; Prairie — Dustin Shelby 11-140; AJ Dixson 13-146; Devante Clayton 5-22; Zeke Dixson 1-3; Treyce Teague 1-4, team: 4-(minus-15).
PASSING: Kelso — Marshall Coleman 4-13-0-110; Prairie — AJ Dixson 16-28-0-183; Devante Clayton 1-1-0-40.
RECEIVING: Kelso — Dillon Davis 1-9; Tanner Davis 2-32; Teagan Connors 1-4; Josh Webb 0-65; Prairie — Dustin Shelby 2-36; Zeke Dixson 3-18, Jimmie Barton 6-99; Ian Davis 3-55; Devante Clayton 1-8; Nickolas Lawhead 1-(minus-2); Treyce Teague 1-7.