TOUCHET — When freshman quarterback Travis Dodd hooked up with sophomore running back Bryan Vazquez on a 43-yard touchdown pass and then raced around his left end for a two-point conversion here Friday afternoon, Touchet High took another small step on its treacherous journey back to football respectability.
The second-quarter TD and subsequent two-pointer gave the Indians an 8-6 lead over visiting Yakama Tribal School and marked only the second time this season that they held the upper hand on the scoreboard. And the first time before their hometown fans.
Touchet took an 8-0 lead in its Sept. 27 game at Tekoa-Rosalia, a game the Indians would eventually lose 68-22.
The lead didn't last long here Friday, either.
The Eagles answered with three more touchdowns of their own before the halftime buzzer sounded, took a 26-8 lead into the intermission and rolled on to a 50-20 victory in the Southeast 1B-8 League contest.
But for a young, undersized and inexperienced Touchet squad, the game still represented a move in the right direction.
It was only the second win of the season for Yakama Tribal School. But the Eagles came to town with a roster that featured seven seniors and five juniors.
By comparison, there are just two seniors and four juniors on the Indians roster. And two of those juniors, Zac Jaggar and Justin McColley, watched the game from the sidelines in street clothes, their seasons ended by injuries.
It was also the final home game of the season for the two seniors, Evan McMakin and Jesse Hackiewicz.
The Indians, who saw their season record slide to 0-8, finish up the 2019 campaign next Friday against DeSales under the lights at Ty Baffney Field in Walla Walla. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Touchet coach Jon Wright had held out hope that his team might erase that zero from the league standings against a Yakama Tribal School team that was 1-5 on the season entering Friday's game. But for a variety of reasons, the Indians could not.
Turnovers — four lost fumbles and a pair of pass interceptions — and penalties — eight of them for 84 yards — plagued the home team throughout. And other than two big plays — the 43-yard Dodd-to-Vazquez TD pass and freshman Alexis Gonzalez's 63-yard touchdown run in the late in the third quarter — the Indians offense most often sputtered.
"It was the same thing we've been doing all year," Wright said. "We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. It was a game I felt we could have won, but we kept making the same little mistakes."
Touchet finished the game with 95 yards rushing on 46 carries. Gonzalez totaled 67 yards on 13 carries and junior Kayden Gallaher picked up 51 yards on nine attempts.
The Eagles likewise frustrated Touchet's passing game. Dodd completed just 4-of-18 passes for 72 yards, one TD and two picks.
On the bright side, Touchet's defense proved once again that it can be tough against the run. Yakama Tribal quarterbacks Max Kimball, a sophomore who started the game, and senior Andy Bennett, who took most of the snaps, were sacked eight times between them and the Eagles finished with minus 49 yards rushing on 22 attempts.
It was a different story when the Eagles turned to their passing game, however.
Bennett completed 7-of-20 passes for 154 yards and five touchdowns and Kimball connected on 10-of-15 for 123 yards and one score.
Junior Milo Jones was Yakama Tribal's leading receiver with 91 yards on four catches, including a 75-yard TD. Senior Adrian Ward caught three balls for 84 yards and a pair of TDs — both of them on screen passes — and senior John Deshawn had four catches for 43 yards and a pair of scores.
The visitors found several other ways to get on the scoreboard
Yakama Tribal scored on senior Dominic Driscoll's 27-yard pass interception return, on Jones' 15-yard fumble recovery return and on a Bennett pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and wound up in the hands of sophomore offensive lineman Andy Thomas for a 10-yard TD.
"I wish we could have a play like that go in our favor," Wright said. "It seems like we can never catch a break. But what the heck, man, that's football and you just have to get ready for the next play and the rest of the game."
Touchet's final touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Gonzalez in the final seconds of play as darkness closed in, the setting sun well below the western horizon and the temperature dipping to near freezing.
"I thought we played really hard," Wright said of his team. "I'm proud of how hard they played."