WINLOCK — The Cardinals trailed by a field goal with a little over two minutes remaining here on Friday before Clatskanie was able to seize control for good.

Facing a three point deficit Winlock’s defense momentarily went bonkers with the outcome hanging in the balance. First Nathan Suhbier and Kaden Harrington teamed up for a sack and then Suhbier and Lukis Tamburello pulled off the same stunt on the very next play. Those plays backed the Tigers up quickly and forced them to punt. When the ball rolled out of bounds at the 11-yard line the Cardinals were faced with a long field but plenty of time to try to secure the interstate win.

An untimely interception two plays later set Clatskanie up for a 15-yard passing touchdown and erased any hope the hometown team had of mounting a comeback as the Tigers ripped a 37-21 victory from the jaws of defeat.

While a storybook ending wasn’t in the cards for Winlock there were plenty of positives to take away from the non-league contest with a school from a larger classification and plenty of success on their name.

“When they hopped off the bus they passed the eye test and kind of scared me,” said Winlock coach Ernie Samples. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get that W, 3-0 and would have been nice. But without looking at the win-loss record that was a win for the program. I think we got better tonight.”

Bryce Cline and Coleson Richendollar got the Cardinals off to a promising start on their first drive of the night. First Richendollar picked up 54 yards on a pass from Cline and then less than three minutes into the game Richendollar hauled in another pass from Cline, this time for a 20-yard touchdown.

The Tigers got even with a 45-yard pass from James Helman to Andre’ Combs less than four minutes later. Two minutes after that Clatskanie was again on the scoreboard thanks to a 52-yard scoring scamper by Sam Shockley. A 25-yard field goal by Helman midway through the second quarter put Clatskanie up 17-7 and had the Cardinals looking for answers.

On their ensuing drive Winlock found their answer with considerable help from a pair of pass interference penalties, a personal foul for a horse collar tackle, and an encroachment foul. A ten yard pass from Cline to Harrington picked up the rest of the yards for a score before Cline connected with Richendollar again on the two-point pass.

“For not being in football gear for two years he looks like he’s been playing for awhile,” said Samples of Richendollar.

And Richendollar wasn’t done yet. Trailing 24-15 after a barrage of power running plays by Clatskanie netted a one-yard touchdown plunge for Helman the Cardinals looked back to the air. This time, with 8:22 left in the contest, Cline hit Richendollar on a slant route and watched his wide receiver make a slick sidestep move to make a defender miss before turning on the jets for an 84-yard score.

Cline finished the game 16 of 23 passing with 279 yards, three touchdowns, and a two-point pass. Richendollar hauled in four of those passes for 159 yards and two scores.

That score brought Winlock as close as they’d get to completing the comeback but Samples was sure to tout the effort of his defense. He doubled down on the kudos when he pointed out that Clatskanie held a notable size and strength advantage, while coming from a classification that would be equivalent to 1A in Washington.

“Our defense, we’ve really been living on it. I mean our offense has been taking shots but our defense has been the gelling point. We want to go on defense and set the tempo there,” said Samples. “You’ve got to give (Nathan) Suhrbier some love. He’s a senior and those guys have been getting their butts handed to them for three straight years and now it’s time I think that they’ve really stepped up and brought this team together.”

Winlock (2-1) will play Morton-White Pass at Randle next Friday.

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