It was a historic night for Pirate football Oct. 12. For the first time since 1995, Neah-Kah-Nie now touts the name ‘League Champions’ on the gridiron.
After taking a big step forward in beating a top-ranked Knappa Loggers squad Oct. 5, the Pirates faced one final challenge in No. 19 ranked Warrenton, who dropped down to the 2A level in football this year.
The Warriors have taken full advantage of their new classification this season and came into last Friday’s game with a 3-2 overall record and have been vying for a playoff spot as of late.
But Friday night belonged to the Pirates as they celebrated a Homecoming win and league title.
However, Warrenton did not roll over by any means. After trouncing Vernonia 42-18 the previous week, the Warriors built off that momentum and went toe-to-toe with the No. 2 ranked Pirates.
After the Warriors completed a 49-yard touchdown throw and catch to gain a 14-8 lead in the fourth quarter, the Pirates looked to be in upset territory.
But Neah-Kah-Nie rallied and junior quarterback Mychal Kelly tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass and senior Josh Elinsky ran for the two-point conversion to give the Pirates the lead late in the game.
Their tough defense they had played all night payed off on the next drive as senior Jack Porter intercepted the Warrior quarterback late in the fourth and the Pirates were able to hold the ball for the rest of the game. Neah-Kah-Nie did just enough to hold off Warrenton in a 16-14 victory.
Kelly was 5-for-11 passing for 88 yards and had a rushing touchdown in the first half. Elinsky continued to tally up the yardage for this season with 84 rushing yards in the game. Senior Tristan Bennett also had 19 carries for 106 yards and led the team with 10 tackles on defense.
Although the NKN backs were still able to gain respectable yardage all night, head coach Chris Bennett credits the Warrior defense for making it tough on his team.
“Warrenton had a great game plan to slow us down,” Bennett said. “They tackled well all night. We executed our blocking schemes on offense very poorly, but defensively we played a very tough game.”
With a 6-1 overall record and 5-0 league record, the Pirates now hold the top spot in league and they will remain there regardless of what happens against Vernonia this week.
The Pirates face a young Logger team on the road this week that is 1-5 overall and 1-3 in league play.
It will be the last game of the regular season before Neah-Kah-Nie gears up to host their first round game of the state playoffs.
“I am looking forward to going to Vernonia and getting back on track this week,” Bennett said. “We need to go out and execute on both sides of the ball.”