The snow finally let up for a while and the sun emerged high above Martin Stadium, creating a sheen on the pristine turf below. For a second, you could even be tricked into forgetting it was late February.
So even though the play on the field at times resembled what you might expect after 15 months away from the football field, and only one team went home with a win, two head coaches were chipper when they reflected on it all.
Can you blame them? Starting a football season mid-winter isn’t ideal — even less so when precipitation persists like it has lately on the Palouse.
Saturday was sun day.
“This was just an absolutely beautiful day, (the) sun was shining, can’t ask for anything more,” Pullman coach David Cofer said. “I wanted to have fun and get better, and both those things were accomplished today.”
The Othello Huskies’ tireless rushing attack and dependable defense overpowered the host Pullman Greyhounds in a 34-14 season-opening game at Washington State. The new Class 2A Greater Spokane League mates hadn’t played since November 2019.
“Yes, it’s great to win, but like I told our kids, this is just awesome to see them out here play and competing,” Othello coach Roger Hoell said. “That’s the bottom line.”
The Huskies (1-0, 1-0) scored four of their five touchdowns via the ground, where they accumulated 213 yards on 45 carries. A pair of sophomores — the quick-twitch Sonny Asu (143 yards) and the bulldozing David Juan Alegria (44 yards) — provided effective changes of pace and helped Othello dominate time of possession. The Huskies ran 64 plays to 53 for the Greyhounds.
The advantage was the most evident in the second quarter, when Othello drained 6:57 off the clock with a 13-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that was orchestrated without attempting a pass. Asu (seven carries) and Alegria (five carries) accounted for all of the yardage until quarterback Logan Hollenbeck capped it with a 19-yard keeper, breaking a 7-7 tie.
After a Pullman punt set the Huskies up at their own 49-yard line, Hollenbeck unleashed a 42-yard pass to Jacob Risenmay, who trotted into the end zone to put Othello ahead 20-7 at halftime.
Othello gained 127 yards on 21 plays in the second quarter. Pullman (0-1, 0-1) had 1 yard on 10 plays.
“The second quarter, that was really the quarter that hurt us,” Cofer said. “We’ve got to get in better shape. They just wore us down. They had a great rushing attack, a lot of credit to them.”
Asu scampered 26 yards to make it 27-7 with 56 seconds left in the third. Pullman finally cut into that margin with 4:11 to go in the fourth, when sophomore quarterback Alex Wills ended a nine-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, pulling his team within 27-14.
The Greyhounds got a defensive stop and the ball back with 3:16 to go, but Wills threw an interception on the fourth play of the series, giving possession back to the Huskies 22 yards away from the end zone. Asu took a toss 15 yards to pay dirt for his third touchdown of the day.
Wills wasn’t among Pullman’s possible starters as late as last week, when senior Carson Coulter and junior Riley Pettitt were battling for the job. But neither of them played in the opener. Coulter was on Pullman’s sideline wearing sweats and a letterman’s jacket, and Pettitt’s whereabouts were unknown.
Cofer didn’t specify a reason for Wills’ start, saying, “our other guys just weren’t available today,” but the coach praised his young quarterback, who performed admirably given the circumstances.
Wills completed 11 of 21 passes for 89 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. The TD toss, reeled in by Ryan Bickelhaupt, tied the game at 7 in the first quarter. Wills also rushed nine times for 27 yards and the fourth-quarter score.
“I thought he did really well,” Cofer said. “Obviously his confidence is kind of a roller coaster right now, but that’s to be expected with not much experience. … I thought our team really rallied around Alex and made sure he was comfortable as our starter and I was really happy with what he did today.”
Mason Emerson led Pullman’s rushing attack with 69 yards on 13 attempts. He and Zackary Farnsworth tied for a team-high with 39 yards receiving.
The game was played at WSU’s home field because Pullman High School’s field currently is unplayable because of the recent wintry weather conditions. Cofer said he’s unsure whether his team will play its next home game, March 12 against West Valley of Spokane, at the high school or WSU.
As long as there’s football, it won’t matter that much.
Othello 7 13 7 7—34
Pullman 7 0 0 7—14
Othello — Sonny Asu 33 run (Brandon Garza kick).
Pullman — Ryan Bickelhaupt 11 pass from Alex Wills (Jaxon Patrick kick).
Othello — Logan Hollenbeck 19 run (Garza kick).
Othello — Jacob Risenmay 42 pass from Hollenbeck (pass failed).
Othello — Asu 26 run (Erick Sandoval kick).
Pullman — Wills 9 run (Patrick kick).
Othello — Asu 15 run (Sandoval kick).
RUSHING — Othello: Hollenbeck 3-25, David Julian Alegria 10-44, Asu 22-143, Nathan Garza Jr. 1-7, Nelson Barragan 6-11, Bo Gonzalez 3-(-17). Pullman: Mason Emerson 13-69, Jason Tran 3-3, Terran Page 3-2, Wills 9-27.
PASSING — Othello: Hollenbeck 3-5-0—73, Gonzalez 2-7-0—15, Asu 0-1-0—0. Pullman: Wills 11-21-2—89.
RECEIVING — Othello: Alegria 2-26, Risenmay 1-42, Hilario Deleon 1-8, Asu 1-12. Pullman: Bickelhaupt 3-8, Zackary Farnsworth 2-39, Emerson 4-39, Patrick 1-6, Page 1-(-3).
Guernsey may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @MD_Guernsey.