Coming into the season opener against Mt. Spokane on Friday night at Roy Anderson Field, the Peninsula High coaching staff knew the offensive and defensive lines of the Wildcats would be stout.
That knowledge was confirmed, in no uncertain terms. Mt. Spokane controlled the line of the scrimmage, wearing the Seahawks down all game with long, time-consuming drives and stifling the Peninsula rushing attack in a 23-6 win that seemingly never felt in doubt.
“We knew coming in that they were a top-10 team in the state,” Peninsula coach Ross Filkins said. “We knew they’d have one of the best lines, both offensively and defensively. We knew we had a challenge there.”
Peninsula didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter, when quarterback Burke Griffin found senior receiver Jace Keim for a 36-yard score. It finally felt like the momentum might be swinging in Peninsula’s favor.
But Mt. Spokane and its bruising rushing attack responded with a 9 minute, 8 second scoring drive which culminated in the game’s final touchdown.
“That last drive was a tough one for us — they just bled us out,” Filkins said. “They made some key third down conversions and a big fourth-down conversion, as well. The bottom line is, they made plays when they had to and we didn’t.”
Mt. Spokane junior quarterback Quentin Ayers passed the ball just nine times in the game, completing five of those passes for 54 yards. The majority of the damage came on the ground. Ayers rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Senior Cole Hattenburg gained 93 yards on the ground on 16 carries, while senior back Jacob Adams chipped in 32 yards on 10 carries. Several others chipped in some yardage as well. All told, the Wildcats accumulated 222 yards on the ground.
Peninsula was held to just 56 yards rushing.
“We knew their defensive line was really good,” Filkins said. “We knew they were a really physical front and they’d be stout up front. So we have to get to our blocks and run our feet, get some movement there.”
It wasn’t all bad for Peninsula, though. Griffin looked sharp for the Seahawks, going 25-for-33 for 238 yards, a touchdown and one interception. He completed his first 14 passes of the game. Keim became Griffin’s favorite target over the course of the game, hauling in nine catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Wideout Chase Wittmers, 6-foot-1 sophomore, had a solid game as well, catching four passes for 59 yards.
“I felt really good out there,” Keim said. “I had one goal before the game: To have 100 percent completions. I got it tonight.”
Keim said Griffin had been locked in on Wittmers in practice, so he was happy to see the ball come his way.
“(Wittmers) seemed to be the favorite in practice coming into the week,” Keim said with a laugh. “But game time came and something just clicked with (Griffin) and me. It was nice.”
Peninsula didn’t play its best football in the opener, but the players and coaching staff believe it’ll be a positive experience for the team.
“It’s extremely beneficial,” Keim said. “Filkins always talks about how we try to pick the best competition in Washington and Oregon, and that’s what we got. It helps us grow and get ready for the (league) games.”
Filkins said the team will get better, and tougher.
“We did some good things offensively,” Filkins said. “We were able to move the ball. We had some good tempo. But we just made a few errors and kind of stalled out on some things. We just need to clean those things up and then be better for it.
“To be able to play a top-10 team in state, we knew they’d have a great O-line and D-line. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re going to improve tremendously from this experience going through this next week. Scoreboard doesn’t measure us and we played with a lot of heart tonight. We’ll come out and play some Seahawk football next week.”
MS - Quentin Ayers2 run (kick no good)
MS - Patrick O’Leary 13 pass from Quentin Ayers (McDonald kick)
MS - Cody McDonald 26 field goal
PEN - Jace Keim 36 pass from Burke Griffin (2-pt conversion failed)
MS - Quentin Ayers 2 run (McDonald kick)
RUSHING -- Mt. Spokane: Quentin Ayers 13-76; Cole Hattenburg 16-93; Jacob Adams 10-32; Grayson Bowles 2-7; Grant Ledgerwood 1-1; Jagger Jacobi 1-12; Ryan Miller 1-1. Peninsula: Foreman 7-25; Beloate 3-17; Griffin 5-6; Potter 3-5; Leonard 1-3.
PASSING -- Mt. Spokane: Quentin Ayers 5/9, 54, TD. Peninsula: Burke Griffin 25/33, 238, TD, INT.
RECEIVING -- Mt. Spokane: Ryan VanWert 1-16; Hattenburg 1-14; Patrick O’Leary 1-13; Tanner Brooks 1-7; Jagger Jacobi 1-4. Peninsula: Jace Keim 9-125; Chase Wittmers 4-59; Braeden Potter 6-39; Michael Foreman 3-19; Cameron McDonald 1-6; Alex Beloate 1-6.