KENNEWICK - The good news is that the Sunnyside High School football team scored more points last night than the combined total of its first two games of the season.
The bad news is that the Grizzlies sustained yet another loss. Thursday night's defeat came at the hands of the Lions, 43-24 winners at Kennewick's Lampson Stadium.
For the 4A Lions, last night's victory was their first of the season. The win squares their record at 1-1 in the Columbia Division of the Columbia Basin Big Nine League. Kennewick is 1-2 overall.
Sunnyside, the lone 3A team in the Columbia Division of the CBBN, falls to 0-2 in the conference, 0-3 overall.
Last night's grid contest was an offensive explosion. Combined, the two teams totaled 848 yards in total offense.
The Grizzlies' share of that was 348 yards...242 on the ground and another 106 through the air. Sophomore Israel Manzo was the workhorse, despite playing with a hand injury that hobbled him for part of the game.
Manzo, responsible for one of Sunnyside's three touchdowns and the team's 22-yard field goal, which gave the Grizzlies an early 3-0 lead, tacked up a game-high 160 rushing yards. He toted the pigskin 18 times in all.
Kennewick's go-to guy proved to be Drew Loftus. The wideout hauled in 11 passes from Lions QB Trent Brown. The nearly dozen receptions Loftus had totaled 142 yards, and more importantly equated into four TD's.
All four of Loftus' touchdowns came in the opening half, which staked Kennewick to a 28-3 lead.
"Defensively for us, it was a tale of one receiver...the Loftus kid," said Sunnyside Coach Mark Marro. "He almost single-handedly got them the win."
Marro said his Grizzlies never could quite get clicking on the defensive side of the ball last night.
"We struggled," he said, lamenting the effort of his players in wrapping up when making tackles. First and second hits on the Lion ball carriers weren't bringing the Kennewick players down, he added.
"This week in practice we'll be working on wrapping up when we make our tackles," he said.
Sunnyside could have easily folded its tent after halftime, trailing the Lions by 25 points. Instead, the Grizzlies on their opening drive found pay dirt, thanks to a 71-yard scoring burst by Manzo.
The Lions responded with a two-point safety when the Sunnyside long snapper arched the ball over the punter's head out of the end zone, then tacked on two TD's to basically put the game out of reach.
Still, Sunnyside refused to yield.
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Grizzly QB Andrew Daley capped off a fourth quarter drive with a 14-yard scoring pass to Leo Cueller to draw Sunnyside within 43-17. For Cueller, it was one of three catches he made in the game, with the three receptions going for a total of 32 yards.
Daley would finish the night 10-for-18 through the air for 106 yards. The Lions picked him once. Cuellar was Daley's favorite target, although he completed two passes apiece to Manzo and James Sanchez.
The Grizzlies accounted for the final 43-24 score when Danny Almeida burst into the end zone from six yards out with just 2:20 showing on the clock.
"Offensively," said Marro, "we clicked pretty good. We moved the ball well."
He especially praised the play of his younger kids, who had to step in at critical times last night because of either injuries or illness to his regular starters.
The flu bug has been running rampant through the team the past week, as more than 10 players have missed practice since this past Monday. "But that's no excuse," said Marro, "All of the teams are battling the flu right now."
In looking ahead to next Friday's non-league game at Lewiston, Idaho, Marro said his Grizzlies have their work cut out for them. Lewiston is a 5A school in Idaho, which is comparable to a 4A school in Washington state.
"So far this year Lewiston isn't scoring like they did last season, but they have some quality players. Especially their quarterback, he's a big kid."
RUSHING - (S'side) Andrew Daley 5-21, Victor Rios 2-3, Israel Manzo 18-160, Emanual Tejada 3-32, Danny Almeida 5-24, Raul Aguilar 1-2. (K'wick) K.C. Hooper 1-8, Rowdy Thompson 7-46, Nate Woods 6-82, Trent Brown 4-9, Devven Ramos 2-16, Jesse Gutierrez 11-79, Zak Albertin 5-44.
PASSING - (S'side) Andrew Daley 10-18-1-106. (K'wick) Trent Brown 14-21-1-166.
RECEIVING - (S'side) Leo Cueller 3-32, James Sanchez 2-28, Israel Manzo 2-28, Danny Almeida 1-10. (K'wick) K.C. Hoooper 2-11, Rowdy Thompson 1-13, Drew Loftus 11-142.