TIGERS THROTTLED BY PULLMAN
By Joe Sova
La Grande won the turnover battle but not the war in Friday night's home opener against the Pullman Greyhounds.
Pullman scored in the first two minutes, 10 seconds on its initial possession and went on to a 19-6 victory over the Tigers, who fell to 0-2 on the season.
La Grande has the third of four tough pre-league games Friday when the Tigers play at Weiser, Idaho.
Pullman was the Class 2A state runner-up in Washington last season and brought in a veteran team against the young La Grande squad. However, the 'Hounds suffered six turnovers, four in the first half. The Tigers lost the ball four times, all before halftime.
Reminiscent of last week's opening loss to Grant Union, La Grande had numerous opportunities to punch the ball into the end zone, but went scoreless until the final minute of the contest.
"They stepped it up a little bit the second half," La Grande head coach Shea Little said, but inability to score when in the red zone four times told the story. "We have a great team and great potential. We're having a tough time getting over the hump. As a coaching staff we have to find a way for these kids to get there."
Pullman took the opening kickoff and drove 74 yards for a score in just over two minutes. Michael Thomas, who rushed for 120 yards for the 'Hounds, bolted up the middle to score from 36 yards out. The conversion kick made it 7-0.
Later in the first period the Tigers picked off a Jeff Jones pass after a La Grande punt. Ricky Gloria pounced on a loose ball when the Hounds muffed a Tiger punt late in the opening quarter, but La Grande gave it back on a fumble after getting a first down at the Pullman 15-yard line.
Pullman mounted a drive but lost the ball again on a fumble. With Trent Evins at quarterback in place of starter Zac Wilmarth, La Grande gave it away on a fumble near midfield.
A great punt by Evins midway through the second period prevented Pullman from getting good field position. The Hounds drove to near midfield, but sack by defensive end Tad Fox forced a punt. The score remained 7-0 at halftime.
La Grande took better care of the football in the second half, but could not sustain a scoring drive until Pullman scored twice more. Landon Weaver followed Evins at quarterback before Wilmarth finished the game at quarterback.
A 26-yard scamper by Thomas set up Pullman's second touchdown, which came when the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Jones threw a seven-yard play action pass to wide open Sam Tennant on the Hounds first possession of the second half. The conversion failed.
A golden opportunity to cut the deficit in half went awry when Wilmarth was sacked on a fourth-down play after La Grande recovered another Pullman fumble inside the 'Hounds 30.
Thomas scored on a five-yard run at 9:43 of the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Wanting to avoid a shutout, the Tigers continued to play hard. Fox recovered a Pullman fumble, the Hounds' sixth turnover, at the Pullman 45. A run by Lanman and Nathan Humphreys reception of a Wilmarth pass gave La Grande a first down at the Hounds 11. With just 42 seconds left, Lanman stretched across the goal line to get the Tigers on the board. The conversion pass failed.
Pullman amassed 226 yards rushing and had 144 passing for 370 total. La Grande finished with only 148 total yards, 90 rushing and 58 in the air.
"A lot of kids stepped up individually and did a great job," Little said. "I think the kids played their hearts out."
Pullman 19, La Grande 6
Pullman 7 0 6 6 19
La Grande 0 0 0 6 6
P Michael Thomas 36 run (kick good)
P Sam Tennant 10 pass from Jeff Jones (kick failed)
P Thomas 5 run (pass failed)
LG Jordan Lanman 3 run (pass failed)
RUSHING Pullman, Thomas 12-120, J.C. Sherritt 9-72, Jones 8-15, Kyle Hinrichs 2-7, Shawn Ervin 1-10, J.T. Levenseller 1-2, Scott Hagihara 1-0; La Grande, Lanman 15-68, Sean Crow 10-24, Tom McKinney 4-12, Zac Wilmarth 3-(minus 12), Landon Weaver 2-1, Trent Evins 2-(minus 5), Cale Flesher 1-2.
PASSING Pullman, Jones 10-14-1, 144 yards; La Grande, Wilmarth 7-10-0, 56 yards; Evins 1-7-1, 2 yards.
RECEIVING Pullman, Hinrichs 2-38, Sherritt 2-30, Thomas 2-24, Brian Pan 2-20, Aaron Pflugrad 1-22, Tennant 1-10; La Grande, Ricky Gloria 2-9, Crow 2-6, McKinney 1-12, Lanman 1-12, Humphreys 1-11, Flesher 1-8.