MABTON - Nothing fancy. Steak and potatoes type football. Run it right at 'em.
That's the philosophy of the Mabton Vikings this year, and it's paying big dividends.
Last Friday, the Vikes picked up their third win in as many outings-a 20-14 double overtime victory over the visiting LaSalle Lightning. The win pushes Mabton's Central Washington 'B' League record to 2-0, 3-0 overall, while LaSalle slipped to 1-1 in conference play, 1-2 overall.
In assessing last Friday's contest, Mabton Coach D.J. Search acknowledged both teams weren't pulling any punches.
"We knew it would be a hard hitting game," he said.
Mabton's win Friday night came against a team many are picking to advance to the postseason. The week prior, the Vikes also knocked off the multi-defending league champion Waterville Shockers. Mabton will go on the road this coming Friday to play Bridgeport (1-2).
LaSalle erased a 14-7 halftime deficit last Friday by tying the game up at 14-all early in the fourth quarter. The Lightning got the game tying TD on a 2-yard plunge by 240-lb. tailback Mike McKenna, his second touchdown run of the night.
Mabton was held scoreless in the third and fourth quarters, but the Vikes found paydirt when it counted. In the second overtime session, a Kansas City tiebreaker format, senior Pablo Sanchez broke off a 15-yard TD scamper that ended up being the difference in the game.
LaSalle's ensuing overtime offensive series got snuffed when free safety Alex Zavala picked off a pass by LaSalle quarterback Seth Pleger to end the game.
"We were nervous about that particular play the whole game," said Search, explaining that the LaSalle play is designed to look like a run out of the veer, but in reality it's a pass to the tight end who's streaking up the middle of the field.
"Alex's our quarterback. He read it right and made the play," said Search.
The Vikes set the tone early on, forging a 7-0 lead on LaSalle on the opening drive of the game. Sanchez culminated the drive with an 18-yard sweep around the right end that got him into the end zone.
Ironically, as no-frills as the Mabton game plan is, the Vikes relied on a bit of trickery to take the early lead. Mabton, stuffed on its first three offensive plays, lined up to punt the ball away, but instead the QB Zavala tossed a 27-yard pass to senior Ray Elizondo out in the right flat that netted a first down and kept the drive alive.
The Lightning appeared poised to retake the momentum by driving the ball to Mabton's 5-yard line on its first possession of the game. The Vikings' defensive unit stiffened, though, forcing LaSalle to go four-and-out.
By the same token, LaSalle's defensive squad refused to allow Mabton to move the ball from deep in its own territory, giving up just three short gains to force a punt. The Lightning appeared to be in good shape when it got the ball back just short of the 50-yard line. But on the first play from scrimmage, a Mabton defender knocked the ball loose from a LaSalle ball carrier and the Vikes recovered it on LaSalle's 43-yard line.
Neither club could push the ball very far on the next three possessions.
The biggest turning point of the first half for LaSalle came midway through the second quarter when the Lightning stuffed a fourth-and-less than a yard play at the midfield stripe. McKenna, on the very next play, broke off a 47-yarder that took the ball to the Mabton 2. McKenna, who rushed for 146 yards on 21 totes Friday night, scored LaSalle's first TD of the night on the next play, that coming on a 2-yard dive.
The Lightning then attempted an onsides kick, but the Vikes recovered the pigskin and found themselves with good field position. Two 20-yard-plus runs by Sanchez moved the ball to the LaSalle 2-yard line, from where Zavala ran a quarterback keeper into the end zone. Luis Quintero's second straight PAT attempt gave Mabton a 14-7 lead.
LaSalle, going to the air much more than it had early on in the game, made one last push right before the half, driving the ball to the Mabton 15-yard line. Viking cornerback Lupe Campos thwarted the potential game tying drive, though, when he intercepted a pass in the end zone with just 17 seconds showing on the clock.
"It was good positioning on Lupe's part," said Search. "We spend a lot of time looking at film, and it was a case of Lupe knowing his opponent very well."
Search said in reviewing this past Friday's game on film, "...we could have played better on both sides of the ball.
"But our kids showed they have a lot of fight in them.
"It was an awesome team game, and it was awesome to be part of it," he added.