NHS win season opener for first time in long time

<I>AUDREY WIRKKALA photo</I><BR>Kyle Burkhalter ran for a touchdown and passed for two more against Vancouver Christian in Friday night's opening game.

NASELLE - For the first time in many years, the Naselle Comets won their season-opening football game, with a 28-7 win over the Vancouver Christian Light friday night.

The Comets scored the first time that they had the ball, as the Light had trouble controlling the Comets offense. Aoy Marion, with 125 yards on 13 carries, and Kyle Burkhalter, passing for two touchdowns and running for another, led the Comets offense.

In fact, fumbles, where the Comets lost four of four, were about the only thing that slowed down the Comets offense. That was about the only negative that coach Robin Andrea found worthy of his concern.

"The kids lost the ball more times than we would like, but they didn't let it bother them and buckled down and played great ball after each miscue. I am proud of our entire defense, but I want to give special mention to our linebackers, Robert Torppa and Jason Gradt, and to the play of two of our freshmen, Nick Hines and Conner Smith," said Andrea. "Our entire defense never let up on them and the Light didn't have the ball for very many plays."

After getting the ball for the first time in the game, the Comets didn't waste any time in getting their first score of the year. Marion picked up over 30 yards on the first play from scrimmage, carrying the ball to the Light 10 yard line. Two plays later, QB Burkhalter connected with tight end Jason Gradt on a 9-yard scoring pass and the Comets were off and running even though Gradt's attempted PAT kick was blocked.

Leading 6-0 after one period, the Comets proceeded to light up the scoreboard two more times before the half. The first TD came when Burkhalter rolled out for a 10-yard score at the end of a 58-yard drive. The extra point try for two points was stopped and Naselle led 12-0.

The Comets defense again stifled the Light offense and took off on a drive of their own from midfield. They drove the ball to the one before Burkhalter lost a fumble, stopping their momentum on the one yard line.

Again, the Comets "D" wouldn't let the Light move and Burkhalter returned the Light's punt to the 15 yard line.

This time the Comets weren't to be denied and Burkhalter connected with Hines on a 15-yard scoring pass. The two-point try was good and Naselle went in at the half leading 20-0.

The Light's kick-off opening the second half started one of the most unusual plays ever seen in any game. The line drive kick hit Burkhalter's knee as he attempted to field the kick, and it caromed straight back up the field where the Light recovered at the Naselle 35 yard line. It took the Light seven plays to reach pay dirt. Their all-purpose running back David Merritt rammed in the final five yards for the score. The Light kicked the PAT and trailed 20-7 with 8:07 left in the third quarter.

With the combo of Marion and Burkhalter doing most of the damage again, the Comets didn't hesitate and drove inside the 20 yard line before the Light picked off a pass on the three yard line. The Comets defense came close to pushing the Light back into a safety before they were forced to punt, which only came out to the 22 yard line.

Two plays later, Robert Torppa scooted in from 18 yards out. Burkhalter connected with Marion for the two extra point conversion and the Comets had the 28-7 lead with the fourth period left to play.

The Comets task becomes more difficult this week when they travel to Toutle Lake to take on a team which was rated as one of the "teams to watch" in the preseason statewide polls.

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