The Neah-Kah-Nie High School football team had their sights set on a championship run. Unfortunately, they were unable to get past the red hot Raiders of Lost River, who have now won five straight games.
For just the fourth time in school history, the Pirates were playing in a quarterfinal game in the state playoffs Nov. 10. Although Neah-Kah-Nie played a tough brand of defense and only gave up seven points in the first half, the Pirate offense had trouble moving the ball against the stout Raider defense.
“Their defense was aggressive and tackled well,” head coach Chris Bennett said. “We had drives where we would move the ball downfield on them and when we got close to the red zone we made too many mistakes and were never able to capitalize with a score.”
Along with their offensive woes, the Pirates battled a number of injuries Saturday, including senior defensive player of the year in the Northwest League Tristan Bennett, who suffered a severely sprained ankle and possible tibia fracture.
Despite the injury, Tristan played through what would be his final game of his Pirate career and ended the game as their leading tackler and tallying 71 rushing yards on offense. Defensively, coach Bennett said he was fairly pleased with their defensive effort Saturday.
“We held their offense to 132 yards in the first half and less than 100 in the second half,” Bennett said. “Our problem was that we gave them great field position too many times. We had a fumbled punt snap on our own 12 that led to a score on the next play for them.”
The Raiders ultimately eliminated the Pirates from the playoffs after the 21-0 loss. However, Bennett said it should not overshadow all the great things the Pirates accomplished this season.
“This group of boys has brought back a sense of pride to our community and have certainly helped change the culture of our school,” Bennett said. “I am most proud of this group of boys for turning around a program that really had no life at all three years ago. Their commitment and effort is what turned things around.”
Along with their long list of accomplishments, coach Bennett also received some accolades himself as he was named the coach of the year in the Northwest League. The Pirates won the league title this year and Bennett said it was an honor to receive the award.
“Our coaching staff works hard together, but our players deserve all the credit,” Bennett said. “They played the games and made us look good.”