Kittitas football overcomes mistakes to defeat Highland 24-6

September 13, 2017 GMT

KITTITAS — Canceled practices, changed schedules, first-game jitters. It’s easy to expect the production on the gridiron to be flawed in the first game. However, Kittitas High School’s football team rose above the miscues to claim its season-opening victory at home with a 24-6 decision over visiting Highland.

The game, originally scheduled for the previous Friday, was postponed because of poor air quality attributed to wildfires in the region. But that was only half of it, as practices were missed for the same reason, putting Kittitas at a clear disadvantage versus other well-practiced teams.

“It was tough. It was even tougher on us with the smoke and not being able to practice for four days last week, it’s been real tough,” Kittitas head coach Jamal Weems said. “We expected to come out with a few follies. Moving the first game to a different day. Not having a jamboree, missing the practices. All in all, those guys battled.”

It wasn’t dominant, it wasn’t mistake-free, but it did result in a victory at home.

Both Kittitas (1-0) and Highland (0-2) traded stalled drives to open play and after a 3-and-out on Highland’s third offensive series, Kittitas went to work at midfield. Dawson Byers opened the drive late in the first quarter with a 16-yard scamper to the Scottie 33. He then rumbled another five yards to set up a third and five on the Scottie 28. After an incompletion made it fourth down, Kittitas quarterback Bryce Anderson turned a keeper into a 28-yard rush to the end zone for the first score of the season and the 6-0 lead two plays into the second quarter.

Highland would respond midway through the second. After another 3-and-out apiece for each team, Highland needed just one play to go 47 yards when Lincoln Hakala connected with Miguel Pena, who had a step on the Kittitas defensive secondary.

“They got that one over the top of us and I think that’s young guys playing defensive back for us tonight,” Weems said. “We’ll fix it.

“We were just trying to be sound. We watched film and we figured if we could keep the outsides clean, we thought we could be successful and it worked out good.”

The Coyotes didn’t yield much for the rest of the night. In fact, Highland made it past midfield against the Coyotes’ defense just three plays for the rest of the game.

The Coyote special teams got into the mix as well, getting immediate penetration behind the line of scrimmage on a Scottie field goal attempt midway through the second period. Byers got a body in front of the kick and Wyatt Stickney came up with the 13-yard return, giving momentum to a scoring drive on a later set of downs.

After Kittitas went 37 yards on seven plays to end the half with an Anderson-to-Caleb Harris touchdown reception, Highland showed nothing that would threaten for the rest of the half and into the second half of play.

The Scotties initially came out with a few different options with the running game, relying on Cristian Bravo, Peter Williams and Tevin Lopez. Yet the Coyote defense rarely fell victim to a big gain.

Highland suffered with an inconsistent rushing attack and couldn’t muster much of an aerial attack in the second half. Kittitas’ defensive line was able to penetrate consistently to stop a rush and put pressure on Hakala under center.

Meanwhile offensively, the Coyotes also suffered through some inconsistency and penalties, but were clearly more successful in yardage and points. Taking the possession midway through the fourth quarter, Kittitas went to Byers four times in the 10-play scoring series, as the sophomore netted 32 yards on those four carries, with the fourth being a five-yard dive through three Scottie defenders into the end zone for the 18-6 cushion.

“We got him from middle school last year and the middle school coaches loved him and we love him too,” Weems said of Byers. “He played a ton for us last year as a freshman. He’s a Swiss Army knife kind of guy and a heckuva football player.”

Two plays before Byers’ score, Anderson connected with Harris for 39 yards, setting up a short-yardage situation for Byers.

While running down the clock late in the fourth quarter, Anderson went to Mason Landdeck in the corner of the end zone for a bit of insurance and the final 24-6 tally.

Byers finished with 87 yards and one score on 18 carries. Harris had 85 yards and a touchdown on four receptions from Anderson. The signal caller also threw three completions and a score to Landdeck.

Up next for Kittitas is White Swan, just two days away. With the Highland game being pushed to accommodate for the air quality, it gives the Coyotes just two days of practice to prepare for the Cougars.

It doesn’t allow for much recuperation either as multiple Coyotes went down with short-term injuries from a unaccommodating practice schedule.

“Cramps. Pretty much every single guy that went down tonight went down to cramps,” Weems said. “Again, that’s missing practice days, but once we get back into a groove and hydrate better, we’ll be good.”

And good includes playing at home. Tuesday’s victory was the first of three straight home games to open the season.

“We’re so happy to be here. We love playing here,” Weems said. “We’ve got a great atmosphere with our fans. We really have a home field advantage.”