ILWACO — In a crucial Pacific League Coastal division showdown against Raymond, the Fishermen recovered two onside kicks, a fumble on another kickoff, and a muffed punt, depriving the Seagulls of possessions and fueling a 35-17 win over their rivals. Alec Bell returned to action, seeing five carries and scoring a touchdown.
The Seagulls dominated in the early going, taking a 9-0 lead on Jace Duckworth’s 22-yard touchdown run a minute into the second quarter.
The Fishermen immediately faced third-and-five from their own 25. Jack Odneal threw deep for Alex Kaino, who made a spectacular diving catch at midfield, turning Ilwaco’s fortunes around. Brandon Duke and Brandon McMullen picked up solid chunks of yardage on runs, and Odneal hit Ethan Bannister in the end zone for another 25-yard completion, putting the Fishermen on the board at 9-6.
Ilwaco kicker Jorge Galvan booted an onside kick right off the hands of a Raymond player; the ball bounced sideways until Duke pounced on it for the recovery. After Ilwaco went three-and-out, McMullen punted a bouncer to the corner of the field. Duckworth reached down to grab the ball, then pulled back, deciding to let it roll. However, he still touched the ball slightly as it bounced through him. Kaino sprinted past him and dived on the ball at the Raymond eight just before it went out of bounds. Bell punched it in on third-and-goal from the one, giving Ilwaco a lead. Raymond answered with a 25-yard touchdown run by Duckworth. The Seagulls went into the break with a 17-14 lead.
The Fishermen opened the second half with another successful onside kick by Galvan. Royce Murry came up with the recovery. Galvan said the Fishermen saw a Raymond player backing away from the ball slightly on kickoffs and tried to kick it at him. “I kicked it at him high in the air, and it bounced up,” which put the ball up for grabs.
The Fishermen turned to the running game on the resulting drive. After a four-yard run by Bell, Odneal faked to Bell and kept it for a 12-yard run to Raymond’s nine. Odneal then ran the same play to get down to the five.
Bell was something of a decoy on Friday. “They [Raymond] were wondering all week whether I was going to be back,” Bell said. “They know us well. We had a tight game with them last year (Bell gained 73 yards on 14 carries in that 14-13 loss)…. Whenever I was out there, they would yell ‘watch number 44!’” Bell expressed strong confidence that he will be at full strength for next week’s game against Pe Ell/Willapa Valley.
Ilwaco’s drive stalled inside Raymond’s 10, but another Raymond fumble gave them a short field on their next possession. Odneal capitalized with a spectacular 10-yard touchdown pass. Scrambling to the right, he threw across his body to a well-covered Tenyson Ramsey over the middle in the back of the end zone, giving Ilwaco a 20-17 lead.
Ilwaco’s Calvin Baze recovered another Raymond fumble on a shallow kickoff. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Odneal ran up the middle, broke a tackle and outran the secondary for a 38-yard touchdown run. McMullen caught the two-point conversion pass for a 28-17 lead near the end of the third.
On their next possession, Ilwaco ran on 13 of 14 plays, picking up third downs and killing the clock. McMullen dragged a tackler to pick up a third and five. Bannister drew a big pass interference on the only pass on second and 16. McMullen’s one-yard run made it 35-17 with only 4:31 left.
Odneal led Ilwaco with 78 yards on 10 carries and was eight of 17 for 97 yards. McMullen ran for 66 yards on 19 carries, Duke for 53 on 10. Bell had five carries for five yards.
The Fishermen improved to 2-0. Raymond fell to 1-1, having beaten North Beach 46-20 the previous week. Already, the Fishermen are one of only two unbeaten teams in the six-team Coastal Division of the Pacific League. Pe Ell/Willapa Valley is also 2-0 and hosts Ilwaco next Friday.