TENINO — Mossyrock knew that after a regular season chock full of blowouts, the four-quarter battle was coming.
It came Saturday in Stone City, and the Vikings proved that they can indeed play four quarters when they need to, coming back and finishing strong to beat Almira-Coulee-Hartline 46-30 in the quarterfinals of the 1B state tournament.
“My heart’s pounding right now, but that was a fun game,” Mossyrock coach Eric Ollikainen said.
On the Vikings’ opening drive, the offense ran the ball down to the 3-yard line, before Ollikainen and his staff dialed up back-to-back play-action passes, both of which fell incomplete to turn the ball over.
Five minutes later, the Warriors were capping a 97-yard drive to take the lead.
“We kind of got too cute,” Ollikainen said. “We’ve got to be who we are and just pound the rock.”
So for the rest of the night, that’s just what Mossyrock did. The Vikings lined up big packages, and ran up the middle, again and again and again.
Quarterback Easton Kolb led the rushing attack, going for 157 yards on 23 carries. Only two of those went for more than 10 yards, but the Warriors could never fully stop him.
And after their mishap on the goal line, the Vikings didn’t shy away from how they ran with him. Mossyrock dialed up a straight-ahead wedge sneak 15 times on the day; by itself, those plays gained 68 yards and four of Kolb’s five rushing touchdowns.
Ollikainen described it as a “2 yards and a cloud of dust” play, but more often than not, Kolb powered behind an offensive line that leaned on ACH all afternoon for 5 or 6 or even 10.
“Our offensive line just dominates every other team that we’ve played the whole season,” Kolb said. “Any time we run that play, it’s yards every time.”
Going up against a high-flying ACH offense that threw for 344 yards, the slow, methodical offensive attack suited Ollikainen just fine, keeping the Warriors out of the end zone by keeping them off the field.
“We really relied on our offensive line down the stretch, just to eat up clock and give us first downs,” he said. “That was our best defense, was having the ball in our hands and taking time.”
That’s how the Vikings, who trailed 30-22 going into the fourth quarter, turned the game around. Tying the game on a 1-yard Kolb sneak on the first play of the period, the Vikings got the ball back less than 30 seconds later when Charlie Edgar snuffed out a screen for an interception to give Mossyrock the ball back near the red zone, and four plays later, Kolb was sneaking back in to put the designated hosts back ahead.
The Warriors took five minutes on their next drive but stalled out with just under five minutes left, and the only reason the Vikings didn’t wind the game all the way down was because Kolb found the end zone one more time on one more sneak with 30 seconds left.
Edgar also recovered a fumble in the second quarter, while Kolb stopped the Warriors in the first with a one-handed interception in the end zone.
“For a game like this, turnovers are the name of the game,” Ollikainen said.
Zack Munoz racked up 149 total yards on offense, sprinting away from the defense for a 58-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the second quarter and logging 62 rushing yards on the afternoon. Marshall Brockway added 60 yards on the ground.
Now, Mossyrock is the state semifinals for the first time since 1999. The Vikings will head east to take on No. 2 Wilber-Creston-Keller, which downed No. 10 Naselle 98-44 in a high-scoring shootout.
“It was good, we needed to be tested,” Ollikainen said. “I’m glad we went through it, and we have a lot to work on before we go any further.”