PORT ANGELES — A foot out-of-bounds here, a tipped pass there, a fumble just out of the reach of a Roughriders defender.
That was the difference in a hard-fought 21-7 loss by the Port Angeles Roughriders to the North Thurston Rams in a loss that came down to a handful of breaks that all seemed to go North Thurston’s way.
“I’m really happy with the boys,” said head coach Troy Mann. “We’re new, we’re improving.”
The game was closer than the score might indicate as the Rams were up just 6-0 in the fourth quarter, thanks largely to a number of defensive stands made by the Roughriders all game long. Port Angeles showed a lot of resiliency despite the Rams running more than 60 plays and holding the ball most of the game.
“We got out of gas a little bit. We were trying to read too much, and you can’t read their offense,” Mann said.
Mann said Derek Bowechop, who had eight tackles, “had a hell of a game.”
“If I’m giving a game ball, it’s going to him,” he said. Joe Davis also had a big game with some clutch defensive stops.
The Riders’ offense struggled to find a rhythm all game, but had a pair of big plays. Thanks to a 59-yard TD strike from Brenden Roloson-Hines to Tyler Bowen in the fourth quarter, Port Angeles had a shot to get back in the game until the final minute.
North Thurston ran the ball 52 times for 324 yards, but time and again the Riders held on fourth down until late in the fourth quarter when the defense finally started wearing down a bit. Even then, when Port Angeles really needed a stop, the Roughriders got one in the final 90 seconds that got them the ball back with a chance to move to within one score.
The Rams scored quickly in the first quarter, going up 6-0 just three minutes into the game thanks to 55 yards rushing right off the bat from Jace Marcott. Marcott was a workhorse for the Rams, especially in the first half, but other than one 35-yard run, the Riders pretty much kept him in check. Mann said the Roughriders knew he was the workhorse coming in to the game and they keyed their defense on him.
When the Riders got the ball back after the TD, they effectively moved down the filed thanks to 11-yard and 15-yard runs from Roloson-Hines. Then on one of the best plays of the game, Roloson-Hines ran off the left end and pitched it to Garrett Edwards, who took it all the way to the house for an apparent touchdown. While everyone in the stands thought it was a TD, the referees ruled that Edwards had stepped out of bounds on the far sideline on the 19-yard-line for a 26-yard gain.
It ended up being a huge call as the Riders’ drive stalled on the 18-yard-line.
The Riders held three times in the second quarter as the Rams repeatedly marched it deep into Port Angeles territory. After a Riders’ fumble, North Thurston had the ball first-and-1o on the 13-yard-line, but Port Angeles’ Chris Guttormsen ended that drive with a clutch interception in the end zone.
The best stand of all came at the end of the first half, with a considerable amount of confusion.
The Rams churned out a drive with a first-and-goal on the 6-yard-line with a minute left in the half. Grady Bourm made a tackle for a two-yard loss, Anton Kathol sacked the quarterback for another loss and Bourm nearly had an interception on a third-down pass.
With just 14 seconds left, the Rams had a fourth-and-goal from 20-yard-line. They completed a 15-yard pass to Marcott, who was knocked out of bounds to stop the clock with 8 seconds left, but the scoreboard showed it was a third down. After the officials got together for a couple of tense minutes, they ruled it was in fact fourth down and the Riders held to end the half.
The second half was much the same, with the Rams dominating the time of possession. Joe Davis ended one third-quarter drive with a tackle for a loss and then a fumble recovery, but whatever momentum the Roughriders gained ended when they fumbled two plays later.
The Rams finally broke through the bend-but-don’t break Riders’ defense, scoring on a 5-yard rush with 9:42 left. North Thurston converted the two-pointer to make it 14-0.
Then came another huge break for the Rams. On a long run by North Thurston’s Juan Rodriguez, the Roughriders stripped the ball out and after a pileup for the loose ball, the Rams recovered. That was a giant play as the Rams scored on a 10-yard run on the next play to make it 20-0.
But, the Riders weren’t done. On a fourth-down play from the 41, Roloson-Hines hit Bowen on a quick seam route and Bowen ran 59 yards for a touchdown with 3:01 left. After the point-after, Port Angeles was just two scores down.
The Roughriders defense held one more time, forcing a fourth-down punt with 1:40 left. Thanks to two 15-yard penalties on a face mask and a pass interference, the Roughriders moved the ball to midfield with 1:10 left.
On a fourth-down pass, the Roughriders got what they wanted — their star receiver Edwards one-on-one on a deep route downfield, with a step on his defender Marcott. Roloson-Hines led him perfectly and it appeared the play was going to go for a 40- or 50-yard gain, but Marcott timed his leap perfectly to tip the ball away and seal the game for the Rams.
Marcott ended the game with 116 yards rushing, while teammate Eduardo Rodriguez had 90, with much of his damage in the second half. Edwards led the Roughriders with 34 yards rushing and five catches for 18 yards. He also added 7½ tackles.
Port Angeles (0-2, 0-0) begins Olympic League 2A Division play next week with a road game against Kingston (1-1, 0-0) at 7 p.m. Friday .
North Thurston 21, Port Angeles 7
NT 6 0 0 15 — 21
PA 0 0 0 7 — 7
NT—Martinez 1 run (PAT failed)
NT—Campbell 5 run (Marcott run)
NT—Martinez 12 run (PAT good)
PA—Bowen 59 pass from Roloson-Hines (PAT good)
Rushing—NT: Marcott 17-116, Martinex 18-90; Campbell 11-64; Rodriguez 2-47; Clark 2-11. PA: Edwards 4-34, Leis 5-14, Cable 4-9, Bowen 2-4, Roloson-Hines 11-3.
Passing—NT: Maggard 2-8-25, INT. PA: Roloson-Hines 8-17-91 TD.
Receiving—NT: Marcott 1-15; Sebesta 1-10. PA: Edwards 5-18; Bowen 1-59; Shumway 1-8; Cable 1-6.