KENNEWICK – Some might say the young, under-sized and inexperienced Grizzlies had a lot of guts in just boarding the bus that was to take them to Kamiakin High School yesterday afternoon.
After all, Kamiakin had handily dismantled both Prosser and Hanford in its first two football games of the season. Sunnyside, by contrast, scored only one touchdown in each of its first two contests, both lopsided losses to Grandview and Southridge.
But, as brave as the underdog Grizzlies were in taking on the Tri-Cities club Thursday evening, it was the Kamiakin Braves who showed their mettle and expertise. The home team, getting four rushing touchdowns and three more through the air, pinned a 51-6 loss on Sunnyside.
For the now 0-3 Grizzlies, last night’s non-league loss came in their first road game of the season. Sunnyside has another away game at Kennewick next week, although the 0-2 Lions – like the Grizzlies – are still in search of their first victory of the season.
Last night’s game between the two 3A schools quickly got out of control for Sunnyside, as the Braves struck often and frequently. By the time the first quarter horn sounded, Kamiakin was up 21-0.
The Braves went on to increase their lead to 30-0, thanks to yet another TD and a two-point safety.
Sunnyside finally answered midway through the second quarter, when senior Jesus Magallan took a handoff from sophomore Anthony Herrera and rumbled 40 yards into the end zone.
The TD by Magallan, who was seeing his first action of the season and likely will become Sunnyside’s go-to running back, was the Grizzlies’ only score of the game. The 5’9”, 180-lb. senior finished his night’s work with a team-high 116 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Officially, however, the Grizzlies only tallied 68 rushing yards against Kamiakin last night. That’s because four different ball carriers got stopped in their tracks well behind the line of scrimmage…to the tune of minus-57 yards.
The minus yardage is a bit deceiving, however, as a bad snap on a punt attempt ate up a chunk of those losses. Also, the QB Herrera got sacked several times in scrambling away from defenders.
“Our quarterback didn’t have much time to throw,” said SHS Coach Mark Marro. “Kamiakin put nine guys in the box to stop the run.”
Sunnyside didn’t fare any better through the air. The smallish, 5’9” QB – Herrera – attempted just nine throws. Only four of those passes were caught, netting the Grizzlies a mere 21 yards.
Actually, Herrera completed two other passes. Unfortunately for the road team, those two throws ended up in the hands of a pair of Kamiakin defenders and resulted in turnovers.
Sunnyside turned the ball over one other time, that coming on a fumble.
Kamiakin had a bit of trouble of its own in hanging on to the ball, as the Grizzly defense forced the Braves to cough up the ball three times. Sunnyside recovered the loose pigskin on two of those occasions.
Magallan and fellow senior Shawn Christensen, both of whom were seeing their first action of the season, were largely responsible for the two turnovers and what some truly thought was much improved play on the defensive side of the ball.
“Getting those two seniors on the field really shored up the middle of our defense,” Marro said of the pair of linebackers, who only recently returned from military boot camp training.
“Looking at the 51 points scored against us, I know it sounds crazy, but we played a lot better last night,” said Marro. “Most of the yardage Kamiakin got came on short gains.
“We didn’t match-up size-wise and we’re young and inexperienced for the most part, but the kids are getting better. They’re starting to see for themselves, recognizing, when they make a mistake,” Marro said.
The Braves eventually took a 37-6 lead into the locker room at halftime, as QB Kyle Robertson struck for his second touchdown of the night on a 38-yard pass to Austin Gutierrez, which was the receiver’s only reception in the game.
Any doubt as to the outcome went by the wayside when Kamiakin opened the second half with two quick scores, both TD’s coming on runs.
Neither team found pay dirt in the final quarter.
Offensively for the winners, Kamiakin rolled up 244 yards on the ground and another 140 on the 6-of-7 passing of Robertson. The Braves’ leading rusher last night was Umid Ramizov, who gained 132 yards on only 10 totes.
Marro said in Kamiakin’s first two games this season the Braves picked their opponents apart with their passing game.
“In preparing for the game we went with a 3-4 defense, a cover-4, to stop the pass.
“Once it became clear Kamiakin was committed to beating us with the run, we reverted back to stopping them on the ground,” said Marro. And for the most part, he added, the Grizzlies kept the Braves in check with just small gains from then on.
In looking ahead to Kennewick next Thursday night, Marro said he doesn’t yet know what the Lions will throw at his Grizzlies.
“We haven’t seen Kennewick this season. But I’ll be at their game tonight (Friday) and watch them play. We’ll know a lot more about them by this weekend,” he said.
‑ Bob Story can be contacted at 509-837-4500