BATTLE GROUND — It’s one thing for a coaching staff to diligently craft a comprehensive scouting report and gameplan. It’s another for the players to study that plan, buy into it and execute. That’s exactly what Kelso did in a dominant 33-8 3A Greater St. Helens League victory over Prairie on Friday night at District Stadium.
Hunter Letteer threw three touchdown passes and ran one as he amassed 229 total yards and the Hilander defense held Prairie scoreless for 47 minutes and 32 seconds to improve to 4-0 on the year (1-0 3A GSHL).
“We came down with a purpose,” Kelso coach Steve Amrine said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the whole operation.”
Prairie’s Thor Stepina ran for 75 yards on 15 attempts and hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Braeden Slamp with just seconds left on the clock to avoid the shutout. The Falcons fall to 2-2 (0-1 3A GSHL).
From the opening kickoff, Kelso was dialed in. The coaching staff was calling out Prairie’s offensive plays before the snap, and the team swarmed to the ball. The Hilanders never relented.
Highly touted recruit Conner Noah finished with 65 yards on 12 carries and three catches for 68 yards. He added a 30-yard receiving touchdown and a 10-yard rushing score.
Here comes the boom! — After a Prairie three and out on the opening drive, Kelso drove to the Falcons’ 6-yard line. But a trio of penalties backed the Hilanders up to the 30. That was no problem for Noah, who caught a swing pass from Letteer, sprinted 30 yards to the goal line, put a big hit on a Prairie defensive back and celebrated in the end zone with a 6-0 lead. “To set the tone early is a key thing for us,” Letteer said.
Foot on the gas — Kelso went 74 yards on nine plays in 2 minutes, 3 seconds before Zeke Smith caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Letteer with five seconds left in the first half. It gave Kelso a commanding 26-0 lead heading into the lockers.
One last heave — To avoid going home empty-handed, Prairie snapped the shutout with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Braeden Slamp to Thor Stepina with 28 seconds left in the game. The ball fell between two Kelso defenders and Stepina took advantage to give a final hurrah to the Prairie homecoming crowd.
Hunter Letteer — The Kelso quarterback was nearly perfect Friday. He finished 10 for 12 passing for 162 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 67 yards on the ground, including a 19-yard second-quarter touchdown run when he sped untouched through the Prairie defense.
Dominic Kemp — There is plenty of credit to go around on the Kelso defense, but Kemp was a bulldozing force on the interior defensive line for the Hilanders. He finished with two sacks.
Thor Stepina — The senior transfer from Illinois tallied 75 yards on 15 carries and added a 65-yard touchdown catch. He operated out of the wildcat offense throughout the night, threw three passes and punted the ball once.
“Huge statement for us as a team, coaching staff. We felt like we would come out and do what we did tonight.” — Kelso quarterback Hunter Letteer
KELSO 33, PRAIRIE 8
Kelso 6 20 7 0 — 33
Prairie 0 0 0 8 — 8
K — Conner Noah 30 pass from Hunter Letteer (kick fail)
K — Colby Cooper 15 pass from Letteer (Tate Meade kick)
K — Letteer 19 run (kick fail)
K — Zeke Smith 13 pass from Letteer (Mason Smith kick)
K — Conner Noah 10 run (Smith kick)
P — Thor Stepina 65 pass from Braeden Slamp (Alex Ford run)
Rushing — K: Conner Noah 12-65, Logan Hiatt 1-4, Bannick Allen 4-(-5), Colby Cooper 1-2, Hunter Letteer 12-67, Judah Calixte 1-(-2); P: Thor Stepina 15-75, Nathan Phingphouvagh 1-3, Braeden Slamp 8-4, Alex Ford 5-15.
Passing — K: Hunter Letteer 10-12-0-162; P: Thor Stepina 2-3-0-5, Braeden Slamp 8-13-0-118.
Receiving — K: Zeke Smith 3-59, Conner Noah 3-68, Tyler Hays 2-14, Reece Collins 1-6; P: Thor Stepina 1-65, Grayson Weber 2-15, Caleb Blick 3-41, Alex Ford 2-(-1), Israel Duncan 1-3.