Football -- Key Gaston interception stops Chemawa's fourth quarter drive, seals win
After all he has been through this season, head Coach Mike Maraia deserved a break.
His Gaston Greyhound gridders gave it to him with a 20-14 victory at Chemawa on Friday night.
Not that the Hounds got off the wild and wooley rollercoaster they've been on since their miraculous season-opening game victory.
But Gaston hearts and stomachs could feel good after the Greyhounds came up clutch in the closing seconds to nail down their second win of the season.
'It's never non-exciting,' Maraia said. 'In past fourth quarters we've fallen apart. This time we played a perfect game. We didn't have a single turnover.
'The kids played their hearts out. We played like we know we can play.'
This time Gaston didn't need a miracle to pull out the victory. Instead, it used a crunching defense and a relentless ground game keyed by running back Andrew Kendall. The 6-1, 180-pound senior powered for 150 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score.
'He ran like a man,' said Maraia.
On second thought, the coach said, 'He ran like a monster all game. He ran crazy.'
Kendall couldn't have done it without excellent blocking. The roll call of linemen included Nick Brunswick, David Pollard, John Stark, Mickey Alexander, Matt Scott and Trevor Jensen.
Gaston needed every good run and block it could get, because as Yogi Berra might have said, the game wasn't over until it was over.
Things looked good for the Hounds in the final quarter when they went on a 78-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard TD run by Kendall, helped greatly by a block by tight end Brunswick, with five minutes to play. When Gaston stuffed Chemawa on its next possession, the contest looked like it was in the bag.
But the game was only starting to get interesting. Packing plenty of momentum, Gaston began driving again, only this time the drive died on the Chemawa 10-yardline after a gamble on a fourth-and-nine play failed. Chemawa answered with a drive of its own with just 2:40 to play. Playing on the road, the Greyhounds didn't get a lot of love from officials, and on this occasion a pass interference penalty threatened to derail Gaston's cause.
'I thought, 'Oh no!' This can't be happening!' Maraia said. 'The fourth quarter has always been our nemesis.'
Then a Maraia move paid off bigtime. He inserted defensive back Marcus Zamora into the game, and the freshman promptly intercepted a Chemawa pass.
'He broke toward it beautifully and picked it off,' Maraia said.
That set the stage for the nail-biting final 53 seconds of the game, and once again Maraia was faced with decision time when the Hounds got to fourth-and-one on their own 26 yard line.
'I could either punt, kick or go for it,' Maraia said. 'Everyone was telling me what to do, but I'm the head guy and I'm in the driver's seat.'
Once again, Maraia decided to go for it, and this time Kendall made the gamble pay off by bulling 4 yards for a first down that iced the game.
'Everyone was blitzing, everyone knew what was coming,' Maraia said. 'Andrew showed why he's one of the best backs in the state.'
The win raised Gaston's record to 2-4, which Maraia thinks easily could be much better.
'We should be 4-2,' he said. 'Or even 5-1.'
The good news is that the Greyhounds are still in the playoff hunt. But they have to win on Friday night on the road against powerful Northwest League opponent Corbett, which was ranked third in the state at one point this season. Maraia and his Greyhounds are not backing off.
'When we play our hearts out like we're capable of, we can beat any team in the state,' he said.