GRANDVIEW — During the third week of the non-league schedule, Prosser put the ball on the ground four times and gave up two interceptions in a loss at Othello.
Those guys are long gone and a precision, high-octane offense has evolved. The Mustangs (8-2) went no-huddle for all but two plays in the first half, rattled off 27 points before the Tigers (6-3) could catch their breath and steamrolled Ephrata 41-14 in Saturday’s Central Washington Athletic Conference game for third place.
The Tigers beat Ellensburg for the first time in 10 years and took Selah to the wire in a 56-49 shootout during the regular season. But they just didn’t have an answer for Prosser, which led 41-0.
“They played with a fast pace and were able to take advantage of some matchups against our defense,” Ephrata coach Jay Mills said. “We struggled against the run. They were able to get some numbers out front before we adjusted. But give them credit, they’re a good team and they’re more physical than we are and it showed in the offensive line. I think we ran out of gas a little bit.”
Prosser went to the up-tempo offense shortly after the Othello loss and rolled into Saturday’s third-place game on a four-game winning streak. It’s not one of those, bubble screen, jet screen high-flying attacks, but rather a systematic flow that doesn’t allow defenses to substitute or adjust on the fly.
The Mustang ground game was a constant struggle for Ephrata, which opened the season 4-0. JR Coleman rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries and scored twice and Kord Tuttle added 76 yards and a touchdown.
But the key was a pressure pass rush that kept Ephrata quarterback Zac Berryman on his spot all day long. Berryman, who actually throws better on the run to a receiver corps averaging 6-feet or better, was 21-of-30 for 159 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
“They were able to get pressure on him and he couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Mills said. “They did a good job of defending our receivers. But we got in a playoff environment. I thought our kids played hard. We just didn’t execute like we needed to to win.”
Leeland Burleson led the Tigers rushers with 29 yards on eight carries and Berryman had 22 yards on 10 carries, running for his life rather than running with purpose.
With the score spiraling out of whack, Ephrata had to get a little one dimensional. But the Prosser pass rush, combined with solid coverage shut down a powerful Tiger passing game.
Jakob Oxos caught six balls for 66 yards. They tried to take advantage of Hunter James’ 6-4 frame. James finished with 48 yards on five catches, Chris Walker (5-35) and Blake Larkin (4-29) had a few slung their way.
Berryman found Larkin on a 15-yard touchdown. Backup quarterback Trenton Kleyn connected with Ethan Etter on a 13-yard scoring strike as well.
“We knew they were going to be physical, but I don’t think we were expecting as fast of paced game from them,” Etter said. “We don’t have a lot of playoff experience, but what we learned is that you have to bounce back from everything. We have another chance and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Prosser (7-2), which will carry a five-game win streak into its winner-to-state crossover game next week against Pullman. Ephrata plays at West Valley (Spokane) on Friday.
Prosser 14 13 14 0 — 41
Ephrata 0 0 0 14 — 14
P — Levi Vermulm 30 pass from Will Weinman (Ricardo Herrera kick)
P — Chase Courtney 41 pass from Weinman (Herrera kick)
P — Kord Tuttle 1 run (kick failed)
P — JR Coleman 1 run (Herrera kick)
P — Coleman 1 run (Herrera kick)
P — Logan Candanoza 10 run (Herrera kick)
E — Blake Larkin 15 pass from Zach Berryman (Josh Benthem kick)
E — Ethan Etter 13 pass from Trenton Kleyn (Benthem kick)