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LRS football beat DeSales, advance to semis

Connor O’Neill didn’t want to crow about his rushing, his receiving or his defense on Saturday night.

For that, his coach obliged.

“Connor O’Neill is just a playmaker,” Lind-Ritzville/Sprague coach Greg Whitmore said after the Broncos (11-0) held off the DeSales Irish 21-14 in the State 2B quarterfinals at Gonzaga Prep. “Hey, I’m glad I don’t have to defend him. You get him on turf and he’s so quick, he’s tough and he’s athletic.”

O’Neill rushed for 86 of his game-high 106 yards in the second half, ran for two short touchdowns, led LRS with four receptions for 46 yards and recovered a crucial fourth-quarter fumble.

“We played as a team,” O’Neill said. “We got it all done and we all made big plays when we needed.”

The win moves the Broncos to next weekend’s semifinal against Waitsburg-Prescott (11-1), which knocked LRS out of last year’s quarterfinals and went on to win the title.

DeSales senior Jeremiah Cox picked apart LRS’ secondary in the first and fourth quarters. Cox completed 8 of 10 passes for 106 yards in the first quarter and finished 18 of 29 for 263 yards.

Cox threw TD passes of 25 and 51 yards to senior Kyler Pommerening. The first TD came on DeSales’ initial possession and the other came early in the fourth quarter, 21 seconds after LRS had taken a 21-7 lead.

Pommerening also dropped a sure TD on a post pattern in the middle of the second quarter. DeSales (9-2) was haunted by mistakes, including untimely penalties and a bad snap that set up the Broncos’ first score.

On that play, Irish punter Paul Elmenhurst had to go to his knee to field the one-hop snap from center. The 14-yard loss gave LRS the ball on DeSales’ 38. O’Neill kept the nine-play drive alive with a 19-yard fourth-down reception while falling backward, and his 1-yard TD run tied the game at 7.

LRS unleashed its running game in the second half, when it piled up 164 of its 200 yards. O’Neill put LRS ahead for good with a 3-yard score midway through the third quarter.

“This time of year, you have to get your playmaker the ball,” Whitmore said. “There’s no big thing about spreading it around and making your seniors happy.”

DeSales was marching for a potential tie when O’Neill recovered Luke Fazzari’s fumble at the LRS 7 with 6:33 left. The Irish had another late shot, but freshman Jacob Saetre picked off Cox at the LRS 3 with 2:28 to go.