COWICHE - The Mabton High School football team took its first lead of the season last Friday night at Highland, but couldn't make it hold up in a 22-7 SCAC West loss.
The Vikes opened the scoring in the first quarter when Kody Bacon intercepted a Scottie pass and returned the ball five yards for a touchdown. Teammate Ole Gario knocked through the extra point attempt to put Mabton up 7-0.
The interception and short run for paydirt midway through the opening stanza was set up by a 60-yard Mabton drive on offense that stalled at the Highland three-yard line.
Highland then threw the pick on the ensuing possession to give Mabton the lead.
"It was our first lead of the season, it was fun," said Coach John Durham.
The lead held up until the second quarter, when Scottie quarterback Matt Summers threw the first of his two touchdown passes, a three-yard completion to put Highland on the scoreboard. Following a two-point extra point conversion, Highland led 8-7 and, as it turned out, would never look back.
Highland tacked on two more touchdowns in the second quarter, on a six-yard pass and a three-yard run, to complete scoring for the half and the entire game.
Durham said Highland's 22-point outburst in the second quarter resulted in part from good field position the Scotties received due to problems in Mabton's kicking game.
The biggest culprit, though, was Highland's one-two punch of screen passes and quick pitches to the outside.
"That played havoc with us for awhile," Durham recalled. "It caused us some problems."
Down 22-7 at the half, Mabton retooled its defense and shut down Highland's attack for the entire second half.
"We changed our cover from a three-deep to a two-deep zone and that gave us more leverage in the flats," Durham said of his strategy on defense.
Though Mabton's defense kept the Vikings in the game in the second half, the Vikings couldn't overcome first half injuries to quarterback Sal Lopez, running back Andy Rivera and wide receiver Cody Loomis.
When Mabton did move the football, the inability to punch the ball in from close range and penalties undid the Vikes' hopes.
In the second quarter, for example, Mabton scored on a counter play from 20 yards out, only for it to be called back due to a motion penalty.
Mabton also threatened in the third quarter, getting down to the Highland six-yard line before stalling and turning the ball over on downs.
A bright spot for Mabton was the play of sophomore fullback Gael Sosa, who rushed for 95 yards on 10 carries. "Our offensive line opened some good holes up the middle," Durham noted.
In one half of play, Lopez completed five-of-10 passes for 59 yards. Mabton receiver Michael Conradt caught two of those passes for 33 yards.
Despite the loss, the Highland contest may have been a turning point for the Vikings.
"The game was within our reach," Durham observed. "It was really good for us to have some success. Yet it was disappointing because we thought it was a game we could have won."
Mabton (0-2, 0-4) returns home this Friday for its homecoming game against Naches Valley.