The Neah-Kah-Nie football team ventured down the coast to face an old rival in the Nestucca Bobcats on Sept. 22 for an afternoon game.
By Max Kirkendall
After last season’s 66-17 beat down handed out by the Pirates, the Bobcats were hoping to prove they are much improved from last year’s team. However, the No. 5 ranked Pirates were too much for the young ‘Cats and easily strung together a 56-22 win.
The Pirates looked unstoppable in the first half behind long runs by senior Josh Elinsky and sophomore Mychal Kelly.
“I was very pleased with the way we played the first half of the game,” Pirate head coach Chris Bennett said. said. “The last few years that we have played against Nestucca it has always been a very physical game. Their defense was very aggressive and flowed well to the ball.”
The turning point for the Pirates came in the first half when Elinsky took a punt from Nestucca junior Mitchell Richwine 35-yards back for a score, giving Neah-Kah-Nie full control of the game.
“I think when we retuned that punt it really changed the game and truly put us in the drivers seat,” senior Pirate captain Jack Porter said. “Any league win is huge for us, especially when it is against a team as close as Nestucca. I know a lot of guys on that team and have a lot of respect for them.”
The Pirates were again without senior running back/linebacker Tristan Bennett, who was out with an ankle injury. But others stepped up in his absence and in a big way. Elinsky led the Pirate offense with 184 yards on 19 carries and accumulating five total touchdowns. Kelly continued his strong work on the ground with 19 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Evan Wiley also had a solid performance with 86 yards rushing and a score.
“Whenever you have a key player out with an injury you are concerned as to how the team will respond,” Bennett said. “Our starters stepped up well and did a great job. Josh took more of the load carrying the ball this week and had a great game and Mychal continued to carry the ball like he has in the past few weeks. I was happy with the way Evan Wiley ran the ball in the second half when he came in for Josh.”
Bennett also noted the stout work of the Pirate defense as they kept the explosive Nestucca offense at bay for the majority of the game. For Nestucca, they were not able to utilize their speed as they have the past two games in which they won. Despite the offensive woes, Richwine was a bright spot for the ‘Cats as he racked up 277 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns through the air and on the ground; including a 58-yard touchdown run, as well as a touchdown toss to senior Jack Remmington. Bennett was very complementary of the young Bobcat team.
“Both Ben Hurliman and Richwine have big play potential anytime they touch the ball and I felt pretty good about our containment for the first two and a half quarters,” Bennett said. “It got a little sloppy in the second half and Nestucca capitalized with a few touchdowns. They are a much-improved team from last year and I hope the Bobcats can finish in the playoff hunt this year.”
Next up for Nestucca will be a road game against another old Northwest League rival in the Gaston Greyhounds on Sept. 28. The Pirates will play host to the Portland Christian Royals, a team they beat last season 48-6 to start the year.
“They don’t have a lot of guys similar to us and they have a couple wins under their belt so far this season,” Porter said of the Royals. “I know they lost a lot of guys last year, so the team won’t be the same team we faced last season. But I expect us to play well in front of the home crowd and get the win.”
Bennett is also excited to face Portland Christian once again and said his team should be at full strength again.
“We are looking forward to our home game this coming week,” Bennett said. “We should have everyone healthy and game ready for Friday night.”