By Jaryd Cline
Sports editor 

Cougars fall in first state football game since 1978


November 15, 2017

Brandon Cline

Sophomore Brandon Montoya gets ready to stiff-arm a Lancer during the team's opening round state contest against Liberty on Saturday in Spangle.

The special season for the Lyle-Wishram-Klickitat gridders came to an end over the weekend in the opening round of the 2017 2B State Football Championships. It was the first time an 11-man Cougars' team advanced to state since 1978.

The Cougars, the No. 5 seed from Districts 5 and 6, matched up with the 11-0 and No. 1 seed from District 7 Liberty Lancers on Saturday in Spangle, who had an obvious numbers and size advantage.

The Lancers surged in the first quarter and cruised the rest of the way in the 57-14 win that eliminated the Cougars from the playoffs.

Ranked as the No. 3 team in the state among Class 2B schools, the Lancers boasted a big roster with 37 players that were simply bigger, faster, and stronger than the Cougars. They also had won at least one game at state the previous two years and lost 34-16 in last year's state championship game against Napavine.

Liberty opened the game with five touchdowns in the opening quarter, and ran for 298 yards behind a big and tough offensive line.

However, that didn't stop the Cougs from battling the entire way. They heard the chatter early in the season. People saying they would be lucky to win a game this year playing 11-man football with so few kids. And that they weren't very good offensively after scoring just 14 points in the first two games of the season.

Falling behind 36-0 after the opening quarter, LWK held Liberty scoreless in the second quarter but the Lancers were able to tack on three more scores in the second half.

Sophomore running back Brandon Montoya was the main source of offense for the Cougs, but was mostly held in check by the Lancers. Montoya scored on the ground in the second quarter and finished with 40 yards on 10 carries. He also broke through for a 94 yard punt return to the house in the third quarter that gave the Cougars 14 points after a two-point conversion.

The 14 points Liberty surrendered to the Cougs was tied for the most they've allowed all year, while holding opponents to fewer than 10 points in a game seven times this season.

Lineman Elijah McCullough once again paced the Cougs defensively, once again finishing with double digit tackles with 11. The senior was tough and gritty up front and definitely will be missed next season.

Montoya finished with eight tackles and a sack, and junior Jarren Leslie also had eight tackles while recovering a fumble.

Before the game even started the Cougs were hit with adversity. The starting center injured himself earlier in the week and missed the game. Midway through the game another linemen exited with an injury and the team was down to just four offensive linemen, having to swap other players in at the tough position.

But that's how this season went for the shorthanded Cougars. They started the season out with 15 players suited up against Stevenson on Sept. 1, and were down to just 13 players a week later against Tri-Cities Prep on Sept. 8, both losses.

However, the team added a few more bodies down the road, the team continued improving and gelling, and the Cougs entered state hotter than a pistol as winners of their last six games. During their six game win streak from Sept. 29 to Nov. 3, LWK outscored its opponents 274-95 while averaging over 45 points per contest.

They rolled into the district crossover game and knocked off Oroville 32-22 in a game that really wasn't as close as the final score indicated, and faced a tough draw when they were matched up with Liberty.

It was a crazy Saturday for the rest of the teams from the Eastern Washington Athletic Conference at state. Tri-Cities Prep, entering state at 9-1 overall and as the No. 1 seed from District 6 who beat the Cougs 42-8 on Sept. 8, lost to Asotin 31-14.

The DeSales Irish, the No. 5 seed from District 5 and 6 who lost to the Cougs 34-9 on Oct. 20, knocked off District 5 No. 1 seed Manson to advance to the second round of state. DeSales will face Liberty on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the second round of state.

Brandon Cline

The Cougs line up on defense and prepare to slow down the powerful Liberty offense.


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