On a night when Reardan had trouble handling the football, it had little trouble handling Oroville, winning 41-20 in a first-round State 2B playoff game Friday night at Gonzaga Prep.
Reardan had more fumbles than coach Eric Nikkola cared to count, two of them returned for two of the Hornets’ three touchdowns and a third stopping a drive at the Oroville 1.
“We’re going to work on our fumble drill,” a grinning Nikkola told his players. “We have more work to do.”
The saving grace for Reardan came in the form of junior running back Clinton Jenny. He had touchdown runs of 10, 37 and 65 yards plus a 55-yard return of an Oroville fumble and a 90-yard kickoff return for two more scores.
Still, the night belonged to the Reardan defense.
With three linemen who weigh in between 220 and 285 pounds, the Reardan defense didn’t always stop the Hornets, but it did punish them. Tackle Heiko Birkle, who started the season at 300 pounds, wreaked havoc despite having dropped to his wrestling weight of 285.
“He’s actually moving better at 285, so it’s a plus,” Nikkola said. “He really punished whoever he tackled.”
Reardan used both the blitz and the threat of the blitz to further destabilize Oroville’s offense. With the middle of the field taken away, that left the edges for the Hornets to attack and Reardan was up to that challenge.
“We didn’t come in planning to try to confuse them with the blitz,” Nikkola said. “But once we saw how (quarterback Luke Kindred) reacted to it, we kept it up.”
Kindred had the Hornets’ only offensive TD of the night, squirting away from a pair of would-be tacklers in the Oroville backfield to reach the sideline, then turning upfield for a 45-yard score.
Oroville got on the board first thanks to a Reardan turnover.
On the 11th play of Reardan’s opening drive, Zach Wynecoop’s pitch on a sweep led the running back more than necessary and Oroville’s Connelly Quick picked up the ball on a bounce and raced 60 yards untouched for a score.
Kindred also returned a Wynecoop fumble for a touchdown.
Jenny answered those scores.
One play after Kindred’s first touchdown, Jenny broke off his 65-yard touchdown run. On the kickoff following Kindred’s fumble return, Jenny returned the kickoff 90 yards.
Reardan awaits the winner of today’s first-round game in Pasco between Adna and Waitsburg-Prescott.