R.A. Long’s season ends as another inspired comeback falls short : Preps

23 мая 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
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CHEHALIS – Maybe it’s not the ultimate legacy that these uncommonly close, occasionally maddening, never boring R.A. Long Lumberjacks dreamt about before the season, or even a few weeks ago, one that was cemented in their 35-28 loss to W.F. West in a 2A crossover epic Friday night.

“It’s not necessarily the deep playoff run that we’ll remember,” RAL senior Jacob Yordy said, “but that whoever we’re going against, we’re fighting hard.

“We’re always going to fight to the end. That’s what I love the most about this team.”

No one fortunate enough to cram into the drafty Bearcat Stadium grandstand for the winner-to-state, loser-out battle of state-ranked teams could have any doubts about that.

Because less than eight minutes in, the Jacks (8-2) seemed buried.

Three W.F. West possessions had yielded three touchdowns – a wide-open fade from Tanner Gueller to Bryan Moon, an untouched toss sweep from Dylan Verderico and a broken-tackle-strewn broken play from Gueller. Suddenly, it was 21-0 Bearcats with four minutes and change remaining in the first quarter.

And for the second week in a row, just when the odds looked longest, suddenly the Jacks rallied.

Yordy finished a 9-play, 62-yard drive, punching in from a yard out.


It took him just one play on RAL’s next possession. After a Bearcat three-and-out, the Jacks tailback exploded for 55 yards up the seam to pull his team within a score.

Then the R.A. Long defense suddenly, improbably settled in.

A 16-play, eight-minute-plus WFW drive came to nothing. Yordy then fumbled for the second time in the half after another long burst, but the RAL defense held firm again in its own red zone, and Brady Hulings’ interception kept the halftime deficit at 21-13.

“That’s what it’s all about,” RAL coach Erik Bertram said. “Getting up off the turf and keep fighting. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Yordy struck again with his team’s second possession of the second half, bouncing out to the left sideline and winning a 47-yard footrace to the pylon. He converted the two-point conversion, as well, using a stiff-arm to drive a defender over the line: 21-all.

Yordy caps sensational year

The four-year starter, who was a game-time decision after suffering a head injury against Mark Morris last weekend, capped his high school career with 243 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries – pushing his dizzying totals to 1,989 rushing yards and 37 total touchdowns on the season.

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“He’s one of the greatest kids to have ever came through here,” RAL senior Stevie Smith said. “He’s always keeping his head up. … I’m glad to be able to play with him.”

Yordy was far from the only Jack senior to shine in his final game.

There were the big boys like Smith, Mitch Moe and Treshon Long holding their own with the powerful Bearcat front.

There was Ryan Peerboom answering W.F. West’s go-ahead score with a 17-yard touchdown completion to Ryan Geier — the Jacks somehow, again, swinging back. An unsportsman-like conduct foul pushed the extra point into field goal range, but Raul Balbuena nailed it anyway, his kick skimming the crossbar on the way in, making it 28-all as the RAL bench erupted.

But it was a W.F. West senior that had the final say.

Gueller was flawless down the stretch, completing 9 of 13 passes for 220 yards in the second half and finishing with 297 total yards and four touchdowns. The last – and best — would prove the game-winner, a back-corner fade with the Jacks rush in his face that Moon plucked off the turf with a full-stretch dive.

“That guy makes an all-pro catch,” Bertram said. “They made plays. They’re good, man. They’re really good. … Playoff football comes down to a play or two, and they made a great play to win it.”

There were still more than six minutes to play, but the final Jacks push had already been doomed by the most costly of their 12 penalties on the night, a hold that cancelled out Yordy’s breaking, bursting, spinning 15-yard drive-sparking run.

RAL went three and out, and Gueller drained the rest of the clock with his hammer-blow inside dives. R.A. Long just had nothing left, the multiple comebacks depleting all energy reserves.

“In a week or two or a month, they’ll feel good about what they did at R.A. Long,” Bertram said. “Win or lose, you play the game the right way. And I think we did that. … I think we did our school proud tonight.”

There was one final huddle, a few tears but more heads held high, one last break on “Family” for the first Jacks team since the mid-1960s to start 8-0. One that had just lost the final two games of its season, yes, a pair of glorious-yet-doomed comebacks, but that had written its lasting legacy even in defeat.

“Obviously, we’d like a few more weeks with each other, but we’re never going to lose each other,” Yordy said. “We’re always going to be those guys that worked hard together, that shared a lot of memories. We’d obviously like to make a lot more memories, but that’s how it was.

“And we’ve made the most of it.”

Matt Pentz covers prep sports for The Daily News. ​Reach him at 360-577-2527 or mpentz@tdn.com.

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