WINLOCK — Toledo, Morton-White Pass and the hometown Cardinals commingled on the gridiron here Saturday in order to cook up some of the first real live-action prep football of the season.
The atmosphere around the field was giddy like a summertime cookout as the assorted characters of the prep football scene celebrated their reunion. It was obvious that the fans in attendance were eager to be back in the stands, or ringing the sideline and standing on the track, as the case may be. And the players were excited to finally line up and hit somebody they didn’t have to ride the bus home with afterward.
While there were no official scores kept there were several fascinating developments that could prove to spice up the flavor of area rivalries this season. Of course, as with all things preseason in the world of sports, the early returns should be taken with a grain of salt.
Morton White-Pass and Toledo got the morning smashmouth show started as each team ran 10-plays beginning from the 40-yard line of the defense before alternating possession. Toledo started with the pigskin and appeared poised to score after Jesse Towns broke off a 25-yard run through the teeth of the T-Wolves’ defense. That scamper went for naught, though, when Carter Dantinne won a jump ball in the end zone and landed on his back for a drive-ending interception.
On offense Morton-White Pass was busy showing off their new throw-happy offense. However, it was a questionable defensive targeting penalty and a shifty scramble by quarterback Keegan Kelly that set up their first score of the season. A short run up the gut by Layten Collette capped the scoring drive for the T-Wolves.
MWP coach Lee Metcalf said he was happy with the way his new quarterback looked in the pocket during his first real run with the keys to the offense.
“Kelly, for his first snaps at varsity, he’s got a ways to go but I was pretty impressed with him,” Metcalf said. “He’s super smart. He’s probably the smartest quarterback I've ever coached.”
Metcalf was glad his quarterback survived his redzone scramble that set up their score when Kelly dodged at least two runaway Toledo interior linemen. He just doesn’t want to have to hold his breath like that too often this season.
“God I hope not!” Metcalf exclaimed. “He’s an athlete. Just durability wise in this league we don’t want him doing that too much.”
Instead, Kelly will be charged with distributing the ball amongst skill players Dantinne, Collette, Peyton Brown and Jayce Dean.
“We’re an air-raid team now. That’s what we do. (Kelly’s) going to throw the ball probably 30-35 times per game,” Metcalf insisted.
That new approach went haywire when the T-Wolves faced off with Winlock in the following matchup. Logan Hall blew up the first play of the MWP series when he busted through the line and came away with an emphatic sack. A facemask penalty nullified the play but did little to damper the spirits of a boisterous Cardinals sideline. Just a few plays later it was Hall reeling in an errant pass and scampering away for what would have been a surefire touchdown had the play not been blown dead by the officials, as is customary in a preseason setting.
“I thought our intensity waned a little bit in that second game. We’re young and I think they were a little tired. It was the first time for a lot of these kids playing varsity football,” Metcalf noted. “Winlock got a little vocal and they got a little momentum going and we didn’t stand up and fight back.”
The Cardinals defense continued to sport sticky fingers when they took the field against Toledo. Early in the series Collin Lopes tipped a pass at the line to help Hall bring in his second pick of the day. On the very next play from scrimmage it was Noah Patching who stepped in front of a Toledo pass for another Winlock interception.
“That was our main goal. Bring a little energy and lead the league in effort,” said Winlock coach Ernie Samples. “Our whole camp they’ve been bored with defense because it’s the same thing we’ve run for four years so it felt like we were twiddling our thumbs and then we come out here and explode.”
Winlock couldn’t shut down Toledo entirely, though, thanks in large part to a key first down scamper by Towns from the tailback position again. Shortly thereafter Carlo Arceo-Hansen capped off the drive with a touchdown plunge from just a few yards out.
Toledo coach Mike Christensen said he was pleased with his team’s ability to run the ball with some consistency against both opponents.
“Jesse Towns looked good back there. He ran the ball really well, and Miguel Soto. He’s another kid who we gave the ball a couple of times and I liked the way he ran,” Christensen said. “Jeffrey Glass, a freshman, he ran the ball once and he had a chance to make a big play but just couldn’t quite get there, but I like him with the ball.”
Winlock was able to find the endzone twice against a mix-and-match Toledo defense thanks to the efforts of quarterback Bryce Cline and his band of merry receivers. The Cardinals first score was set up on a 15-yard slant completion to Patching and capped by a 12-yard quarterback draw for Cline. A no frills fade route from Patching on the ensuing drive resulted in a 39-yard touchdown toss fom Cline. Both Nolan Swofford and Hall were also able to pick up big yards through the air on the following series before the Cardinals ran out of plays.
For his part, Christensen didn’t seem rattled by the Cardinals air assault. He emphasized that the preseason contests are an opportunity to get looks at players who are trying to earn playing time. Moreover, his team’s goal was simply to get better.
“I was proud of the way that our guys out there played. The mistakes were either guys were more physical than us or they were mental mistakes,” Christensen said. “Some guys got a little taste of varsity football and I think it was good for them.”
Christensen tabbed Andy Jones, Aaron Lang, and Damion Soto as players who all made the most of their varsity reps on Saturday.
Understandably, Winlock’s Samples came away singing the praises of his senior do-it-all, Logan Hall.
“He’s stood out since day one. His leadership, he’s been getting everybody in place and motivating and firing up and now he’s matching it with his play,” said Samples.
Still, with real deal games beginning next week and playoff implications always looming in the River and Mountain divisions, all of the coaches were sure not to show all their cards at once. The stakes were especially obvious in the Toledo and Morton-White Pass matchup since those two teams will play each other for real in Morton on Saturday in their season opener.
Christensen insisted that he called pretty much the same variety of plays that he plans on calling all year, even if he did keep legs fresh on Saturday with a free wheeling rotation.
Metcalf played his cards a little closer to his vest, however, noting that he opted for a comparatively “vanilla” playbook in the scrimmages.
Samples, who’s Cardinals play at North Beach on Friday, had a more insular perspective.
“We’re just going to focus on us,” Samples said. “We’ve got things we need to clean up.”
Note: Mossyrock was originally slated to participate in the jamboree as well but had to withdraw due to a lack of varsity eligible players. Last week the Vikings also announced that a dearth of eligible players has forced them to forfeit their first two games of the season against Northwest Christian and Onalaska.