CENTRALIA – “It’s short.” That brusque announcement by a referee ended Ilwaco’s football season Saturday. Ilwaco was in three-way double-elimination tournament, using college football overtime rules, for the final District IV playoff seed.
Onalaska quickly beat Raymond and then Ilwaco to start the event, setting up Raymond against Ilwaco in a loser-out contest. A fourth-down pass interference call helped Raymond force a second period. Raymond then kicked a field goal to go ahead 11-8, meaning Ilwaco needed a field goal of its own to tie or a touchdown to win.
Facing fourth-and-two from the six, Ilwaco decided to go for the win. Ethan Personius faked the inside handoff to Jeb Sheldon, then took off to the outside and turned the corner. But players in Raymond’s secondary closed in quickly for the tackle. Personius stretched the ball forward, but was marked slightly short.
By defeating Ilwaco, Raymond, at 1-1, earned the right to face 2-0 Onalaska again. Raymond would have needed to beat the Loggers twice in a row to win the event. Instead, Onalaska beat them, 6-3, advancing to State.
The contests were all short, overtime-style periods: both teams got a possession 25 yards from the end zone. A tie after one period forced another.
The Loggers were the event’s heavy favorite. They came in with a 7-2 record, including a 52-14 win over Pacific Coastal division champion Pe Ell Valley. But like Ilwaco and Raymond, they were among the highest seeds to lose a cross-over game, a 35-6 upset against Toledo, which forced them into the three-way playoff. They easily defeated Raymond 8-0 in the first round, setting up a matchup with Ilwaco.
Ilwaco got the ball first. Two runs and a short pass went nowhere, setting up fourth-and-16 from the 31. Ethan Personius threw deep for Parker Kaech behind double coverage, just out of his reach. Onalaska then scored in four plays to win 6-0.
Against Raymond, Ilwaco again had first possession. On the opening play, Personius went deep to the end zone for Kaech, who had a step on his defender, but the pass went off his hand. Personius came back with a 15-yard run up the middle on a fake handoff, then a tough eight-yard run through a pile of defenders, which had Ilwaco knocking at the door. Then, on fourth-and-goal from the four, Personius ran it in. He added the two-point conversion on yet another run to go up 8-0.
“We were running the veer, and Ethan made the reads and kept the ball. He took what the defense gave him,” coach Sean Cease said.
After Ilwaco stuffed two straight Raymond runs, Personius deflected a pass to force fourth-and-long. Raymond quarterback Jack Jordan overthrew a deep pass, but Parker Kaech was called for pass interference to keep the drive alive, giving them a first down at the 12.
“The ref said he had his hand on his back,” Cease said. “I didn’t argue the call; I couldn’t really see it from where I was. It was a close call.”
Ilwaco’s defense held up to force a fourth-and-seven, but then McCartney Madden broke through for an eight-yard run, setting up first-and-goal inside the one. Raymond capitalized with a touchdown and two-pointer for the 8-8 tie after one.
Raymond went first in the second period. After the Seagulls gained just seven yards on three plays, their coaches took the game out of the hands of their struggling offense, deciding to trust their kicker and defense. Raymond’s kicker nailed the 32-yarder.
Jeb Sheldon picked up an Ilwaco first down inside the 15, churning out a powerful eight-yard run, most of it through a pile of defenders. Three plays later, Personius’s fourth-and-two run came up just short, ending the season for the Fishermen.