SOUTH BEND — The Fishermen and Indians fought a ground war in their Friday, Sept. 30, Pacific League opener. With both teams committed to their running game and both defenses preventing big plays, the game saw a physical battle for every yard. Ilwaco nevertheless got more from its passing game than South Bend did. That helped make the difference in a 21-6 win in which the Fishermen kept the home team off the scoreboard until the final minutes.

The Indians fumbled the game’s opening kickoff. Brandon Duke recovered the ball inside South Bend’s 40 yard line. Ilwaco could not capitalize, and the first quarter turned into a scoreless stalemate. The Fishermen finally pounded it in on a 10-play, 49-yard drive, capped by a quarterback sneak by Jack Odneal. Ilwaco ran the ball on every play of that drive.

On the subsequent kickoff, South Bend again fumbled, and Marcello Lazaro recovered. Then, on fourth-and-nine, Odneal scrambled left and hit tight end Tennyson Ramsey over the middle for an 18-yard gain. Three plays later, on fourth-and-eight, Odneal again found Ramsey over the middle for a first down at the South Bend two. Brandon McMullen ran it in for a 14-0 lead with 3:44 in the half.

Meanwhile, the Fishermen were holding South Bend’s offense in check. “We’re starting four sophomores on defense. They’re always learning,” said Ilwaco coach Kevin McNulty. “They faced a critical test against an option attack, which is tough to stop consistently. Players worked hard studying film, studying tendencies. [Defensive coordinator Bob] Enos does a great job getting them prepared, and up to speed on what to expect.”

Ilwaco opened the second half with a 13-play, 83-yard, 7:08 scoring drive. Alex Kaino got the drive going. On third-and-five, he caught a screen pass, made his first man miss, and ran down the sideline for 27 yards to midfield. Later on the drive, Duke came up limping after a run but was quickly able to return. He then took a pitch to the outside for a six-yard run to pick up a fourth-and-four. Then, Odneal took it up the middle twice in a row for a first-and-goal at the six. On the next play, Brandon McMullen found a big hole and ran it in for a touchdown.

“The best defense is keeping the offense from possessing the ball,” McNulty said. The Fishermen ran 72 plays, compared to 30 for South Bend. Ilwaco stealing possessions on the game’s first two kickoffs, and its long drive following the second half kickoff, contributed to this edge.

Ben Byington put the Indians on the board with a five-yard touchdown run with 3:11 left.

The Fishermen ran the ball on three quarters of their plays. McMullen had 99 yards on 25 carries, Duke had 68 on 16, and Odneal added nine carries for 46 yards. Odneal was 12 of 18 for 121 yards and an interception. Duke, Lazaro and Daylin Kemmer all had fumble recoveries.

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