After the tough loss to Lethbridge almost two weeks ago Coach Casey McLaughlin said reflectively, “We have to establish the run game … We have to, have to, have to play physical football to establish the run.”
Last Saturday against the Medical Lake Cardinals, Bonners Ferry did just that, they established the run. In fact, an onslaught of five Badgers ran around, through, and over the Cardinal defense to the tune of 153 yards. To put that into perspective the NFL-caliber Cleveland Browns only rushed for 99 yards last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Josh Pluid carried the ball 16 times and led the team with 78 yards. He was backed up by 13 carries for 40 yards from Zach Wilson, five carries for 14 yards from Anthony Skeen, six rushes from Brian Yoemans for 12 yards, and QB Christian Trocke even scrambled for nine yards.
The ball carriers recognized the team effort it took to put up those numbers. Giving a shout-out to the O-line Wilson said, “It’s easy to grab the ball and run, but it’s hard to block.”
Despite the heroic and diverse ground attack, though, the Badgers came up just short. Bonners Ferry might have walked away with the win on the road if not for an unfortunate blocked punt and a deflating squib kick-off that Medical Lake managed to recover.
The first quarter saw little offense with each team’s two possessions ending in punts, but on Bonners Ferry’s second punt the snap floated a little too long in the air giving the rushing Cardinals just enough time to penetrate and block Pluid’s punt. The ball bounced into the end zone and Medical Lake pounced on it for six points. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt was successful and the Cardinals came away with a lucky 8-0 lead.
The Badgers would mount an impressive drive late in the second quarter. Starting on their own 30 yard line Bonners Ferry would march into Medical Lake territory and got as close as the Cardinal 30-yard line. A penalty and a sack backed them up to the 38 but Bonners still tried for a last second heave for the end zone to go into half time tied, but Trocke’s pass was picked off by Medical Lake’s Austin Garza.
The Badgers figured things out in the second half and started off strong with a 35 yard kick return from Kyler Rice. Pluid then ran through a sea of red to pick up 19 yards. The Badgers would not let this opportunity escape. Pluid ran for five yards on a fourth and one situation from the Cardinal 15 yard line and Wilson capped off the drive with a 5 yard dash across the goal line. Pluid was entrusted to tie the game up and did so with a run up the gut to put two more points on the board and tie the game at eight a piece.
Medical Lake stole some of the Badger momentum, though, by putting together a six-play drive that ended in the Cardinal quarterback Adam Paulson scrambling 11 yards for the go ahead touchdown.
The resilient Badgers took on the challenge and answered with a touchdown of their own on the next possession. On probably their best offensive series of the season Bonners Ferry drove 64 yards in 14 plays. Pluid scored the touchdown from a yard out and was given the ball again on the crucial two-point conversion to get the tie. It looked like he would be stopped at the line of scrimmage but the pile of what seemed like all 22 players on the field slowly inched over the goal line. “I had my brothers with me,” Pluid said about that run. “We had the whole team on it.”
Tied at 16-16, each team would punt again before Medical Lake would make the fatal strike. With 3:04 left in the game a missed assignment allowed Paulson to find a wide open Kasey Kelly for a 46-yard touchdown pass. The Badgers still had some hope after they stopped the two-point attempt, but they would not even get a chance. The ensuing kickoff bounced hard off the
helmet of a Badger just ten yards from the kicker and into the outstretched arms of Medical Lake. After that all Medical Lake had to do was run out the clock.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Badgers should be commended. After scoring only one offensive touchdown in their first two games, they put the ball in the end zone twice against the Cardinals. “We wanted to take away the thinking and establish a pound-it kind of game.” To make sure that happened they brought in some help from the offensive line. Just last week Pluid was at tackle and this week he was the leading rusher for the team. Everything almost came together this week, but Coach McLaughlin remained positive saying, “Incredibly proud of the effort tonight. We’re getting there.”
Bonners Ferry will take another long road trip on Friday as they head down to Freeman to take on the Scotties. Look for the Badgers to build on their success of last week’s game with a bolstered roster. Several players will become eligible this week and should help Bonners Ferry get their first win of the season.