ILWACO - Ilwaco dropped a 20-6 decision to Castle Rock in a Trico League football game played at Pederson Field Thursday.
"We hit hard and the defense played well, but our offense wasn't consistent," Coach Ned Bittner said of his team's efforts in climbing back from illness-related cancelations.
The Fishermen held the Rockets to only four pass receptions, thanks to excellent coverage by Tommy Inserra (two fumble recoveries), Tony Crete, Rocky Mirelez (one interception), and Ryan Cadwell. The quartet of deep backs each had a deflection in the contest as they shadowed Castle Rock receivers all evening.
Mike Kangas also nabbed a fumble following a Randy Wiegardt pasting of a Rocket running back. Caleb Holland at linebacker and defensive lineman Joe Goelz also had solid defensive showings. Castle Rock managed only one first down the final period.
Wiegardt led the Fishermen with 15 tackles, Cadwell added a dozen and Mirelez had seven, followed by Kangas with six Rocket tackles.
The offense appeared to click early as Cadwell hit Inserra for a 29 yard strike, but the drive was abruptly stopped when the Rockets recovered a fumble on their own 44 yard line. They then reeled off three first downs on eight running plays, setting up a touchdown pass to Matt Sutton from Aaron Gehring from 10 yards out with 4:45 to go in the first period.
Moments later, the first of three interceptions Castle Rock would snag led to another touchdown. Taking over on the Fishermen 29 yard line, Cole Elf at 5'4" and 185 pounds and Caleb Ledford (125 yards rushing) did most of the damage on the ground for the Rockets. "Pound, pound, pound, that's Castle Rock's style," Bittner said of the visitor's running attack.
Ledford scored with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter from eight yards to give the Rockets a 14-0 edge. Twice in the first half Fishermen receivers were left uncovered after Castle Rock defenders had slipped to the soggy turf, but both times they were overthrown with nothing but yards of open field in front of them.
After earning two first downs as Josh Gray rushed for eight and six yards and Mirelez seven more, the Fishermen were forced to punt and Mirelez boomed the ball to Castle Rock's 17 yard line. Nine minutes and six first downs later, Ilwaco got the ball back on their own 29 from the ball-control oriented Rockets.
Cadwell went to work, gaining 26 yards on an option run. Gray ripped a 17 yard run for another first down and Kangas gained five up the middle. Gray then took off over right guard for a 23 yard scoring jaunt to bring Ilwaco to within 14-6 at intermission.
Kevin Mitchell took the second half kickoff 43 yards and the Rockets rushed for three first downs before their drive stalled on a holding penalty, one of the few called on either team during the cleanly played contest.
Cadwell hit Inserra on the left sideline and he pitched the ball to Mirelez on the "hook and ladder" play, good for a 30 yard gain, the longest for the Fishermen on the night. Crete then caught a pass on the right sideline for 13 more yards before a sack, two incompletions and another interception stopped Ilwaco.
Castle Rock ran for three first downs, but Wiegardt's bone-jarring tackle and Kangas' fumble recovery gave the Fishermen a temporary reprieve. Cadwell made a first down on a sneak as Bittner opted to gamble on a fourth-and-one situation on the Ilwaco 29, but two more Rocket sacks forced the Fishermen to punt. The kick went only 15 yards after an unfavorable bounce.
Ledford and Elf rambled for three first downs, with Elf scoring with 1:21 left in the third period. The kick failed and the score stood 20-6 going into the last quarter.
Cadwell swept right for 10 yards then hit Mirelez with a pass good for 13 more, and swept left for a third first down on a 15 yard pickup. Two more incomplete passes and two short gains on the ground stalled the Fishermen.
"We didn't have a lot of time to pass all night," Bittner explained of the 5-21 passing performance for his squad.
Ilwaco had one more opportunity to move the ball late in the game, but after Mirelez ran for a first down, the Fishermen tried a fake punt play but the pass was intercepted. The Rockets ran out the clock in sportsmanlike fashion rather than trying to increase the score. The Fishermen are now 0-4 and 0-2 in League play and Castle Rock is 3-3 overall.
CR 14 0 6 0 -20
Ilwaco 0 6 0 0 -6
CR-Matt Sutton 10 pass from Aaron Gehring (Judah Rister kick)
CR-Caleb Ledford8 run (Judah Rister kick)
Ilw-Josh Gray 23 run (kick failed)
CR-Cole Elf1 run (kick failed)
First Downs 16 11
Rushing yards 50-241 37-150
Passing yards 4-12, 34 5-21, 79
Total yards 62-275 58-229
Fumbles lost 31
Penalties 3-25 2-20
Rushing: CR-Ledford 21-125, Elf 14-60, Rister 6-33, Willy Brown 2-7, Kruckenberg 5-14, Gehring 1-1, Berndt 1-1
Ilwaco-Josh Gray 12-72, Ryan Cadwell 13-42, Rocky Mirelez 9-23, Mike Kangas 3-11
Passing: CR-Gehring 4-12, 34 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.
Ilwaco-Ryan Cadwell 5-21, 79 yards, 3 Int.
Receiving: CR-Sutton 1-10, Foster 1-7, Wheeler 1-13, Swanson 1-4
Ilwaco-Inserra 3-54, Mirelez 1-12, Crete 1-13 -Rod Anderson, statistician