By DOUG CHAPIN
Patience and power won out over quick-strike ability as Champion High opened All-American Conference Blue Division play Friday night by grinding out a 14-7 triumph over LaBrae.
The Golden Flashes (3-1 overall) outgained LaBrae 148 yards to 45 in the second half in rallying from a 7-0 halftime deficit. Champion scored on two short runs in the fourth quarter after the Vikings hit on a long scoring pass late in the second quarter.
“Throughout the week we talked a lot about their speed,” Champion coach Terry Howell said about the Vikings. “They’re not real big up front, but they’re very quick, so we had some concerns with our big guys up front being able to stay up with them. I thought as the game went on, our big guys actually wore them down a little bit and that eliminated the speed factor as a plus for them.”
“In the second half they kind of controlled the ball better than we did,” LaBrae coach Bill Bohren said. “They had the ball a lot. If you don’t have the ball you can’t score. I give them [Champion] a lot of credit. They played good defense in the second half, they played hard. They were a good football team.”
The victory ended a four-game losing streak to LaBrae for the Flashes, including a 35-0 loss a year ago.
“We talked quite a bit about last year, some of the mistakes we made. We thought last year we were the better team, but we obviously didn’t come out and play,” Howell said. “We have a lot of great seniors and they worked hard and this game meant a lot to them. We think we can compete in this conference this year and I think that’s the big difference.”
Both defenses were outstanding, forcing a combined 14 punts, seven for each side.
LaBrae (2-2) struck for its touchdown with 3:07 left in the first half as Carrington Herron connected with Andre Elkins for a 61-yard bomb down the right side. Bob Dragash kicked the extra point.
Champion’s touchdowns were a 2-yard run by Jim Rasey on the first play of the fourth quarter, and a 3-yard run by Travis Damron at the 6:57 mark. After the first touchdown, Shane Brown ran for the two-point conversion on a fake kick to put the home team ahead 8-7.
Aside from the scoring pass, Champion kept LaBrae’s big-play threats in check. Running back Matt Szorady gained 47 yards on the first play from scrimmage, but netted minus 2 yards the rest of the way. The Vikings did not gain a first down in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth.
“We thought if we could control the ball and keep [Carrington] Herron and [Andrew] Sekela and Elkins off the field, and pound away, we would definitely have an opportunity to win the game,” Howell said. “In the second half we were able to do that and it paid off for us.”
Rasey and Damron rushed for 121 yards and 61 yards, respectively, combining for 119 yards on the ground in the second half. The Flashes went 52 yards in 13 plays — overcoming two penalties — for their first touchdown, and used up almost five minutes on the clock.
The second scoring drive covered 57 yards, nine plays and four minutes on the clock.
“We had a tough time in the second half stopping Damron and Rasey,” Bohren said. They played a nice game in the second half, they ran the ball well.”