Updated September 29, 2018 06:05 PM
The host Hanford Falcons jumped out to a big lead and never looked back Friday night, beating visiting Chiawana 34-21 in a Mid-Columbia Conference football victory at Fran Rish Stadium.
Hanford’s win has turned the MCC standings into turmoil, with the Falcons and Hermiston tied for first with 4-1 record. Chiawana, which suffered its first MCC loss, and Kamiakin are right behind at 3-1.
It was a big win for Hanford, which earned only its second victory over Chiawana in school history.
The Falcons used two interceptions to their advantage to build a 21-0 lead in the first half.
“We watched a lot of film on Chiawana,” said Hanford QB Garrett Horner, who passed for 199 yards, two touchdowns and ran for another TD. “We were definitely making reads on our routes.”
Horner threw to nine different receivers.
But it was the Hanford defense that made some big plays.
After Horner, on Hanford’s third series, broke the scoreless tie with a 44-yard TD pass to Isaiah Mitchell on a post pattern, the Falcons’ Gunnar Beyer intercepted Chiawana QB Preston Vine.
Four plays later, Louis Werner bulled into the end zone from 3 yards out and a 14-0 Hanford lead.
On Chiawana’s next series, Hanford safety Gabe Martinez picked off another Vine pass. Six plays and 43 yards later, Hanford had a 21-0 lead when Horner connected on a 20-yard TD pass to Luke Sutey on another post pattern.
“We beat ourselves in that first half,” said Chiawana coach Steve Graff. “We gave them too many opportunities. The bottom line is they’ve got a whole bunch of seniors, and we don’t. We’ve got to get better.”
The Riverhawks would rally back – “That’s what a Steve Graff –coached team does,” said Hanford coach Brett Jay – but it wasn’t enough.
And the Falcons did something perhaps out of character: they ran the ball a lot in the second half to chew the clock up.
When it was over, Hanford had the football 27 minutes and 58 seconds, compared to Chiawana’s 20:02.
“I believe in our run game,” said Jay. “Whenever you can run the ball, you can take the air out of the game.”
It just wasn’t the running back everyone expected to take the air out of the game.
Senior Jared DeVine, last year’s leading rusher in the MCC, went down in the second quarter with a badly twisted ankle. DeVine tried to come back after getting his ankle retaped, but it wasn’t working.
“He’s all heart,” said Jay. “He gave it a go. That’s why I love him. But we needed to get someone in there who could do better.”
That would be junior Dylan McElderry, who finished the game with 141 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“I was hoping I’d get an opportunity,” said McElderry. “I definitely want to thank our offensive line. They definitely gave me some holes to run through. And our receivers did a great job blocking on the outside.”
Even when Chiawana rallied to within a score, though, it was McElderry who made the big play.
Leading 28-21 with 1:17 to play, the Falcons had the ball on their own 49 hoping to run out the clock.
McElderry took the handoff, found a small hole that he burst through, and was gone for a 51-yard TD run.
“I was just focused on holding onto the ball,” McElderry said. “I didn’t care if I had zero yards on the run. I didn’t want to fumble.”
No. Instead, he scored.
“Dylan has got great vision,” said Jay. “He does a good job of setting up the block.”
NOTES: Defensively, DB Gabe Martinez shined for the Falcons, collecting five tackles and two interceptions. DL Keegan Smith added five tackles (one for loss) and 2.5 QB sacks for Hanford, whileDB Alec Cruz added eight tackles. … Chiawana was paced defensively by LB AJ Vongphachanh, who had 11 tackles (one for loss). DL Hunter Williams added f ive tackles (one for loss) and two QB sacks. … Chiawana has another tough matchup next Friday, playing host to Hermiston. … Hanford steps out of MCC play next Friday and travels to Big Nine leader Sunnyside.