EPHRATA — When Ephrata cornerback Chase Lus out-leaped Gage Pruneda on a fade route for the pass interception in the end zone on the Huskies’ opening drive, it sent a message loud and clear of the defensive effort to come in Friday night’s Central Washington Athletic Conference matchup at Kiwanis Field.
Ephrata (2-3, 1-1 CWAC North) intercepted Othello quarterback Logan Hollenback four times, recovered two fumbles and held the Huskies on downs in one of the best Tiger defensive efforts in recent memory to beat Othello 16-0.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort,” Ephrata coach Jay Mills said. “Othello is an extremely physical team and our kids stood up to their physicalness and didn’t back down. They played disciplined defense. “(Isaac) Barragan was a concern coming in. He’s dangerous in the open field and we worked hard to contain him.”
Barragan finished the night with 41 yards on 11 carries. The Tigers held 6-foot-3, 245-pound Isaiah Perez, who’s being recruited throughout the Pac-12 by Oregon, Washington and Washington State, to 47 yards on 13 carries.
But the key was turnovers. It wasn’t that the Huskies (2-3, 1-1) were sloppy, it was that the Tigers forced the issue. They were relentless on the pass rush, forcing Hollenback off his spot or sacking him. Lus made his second interception with 13 seconds left in the first half and returned it to the Othello 13-yard line.
Josh Benthem banged a 31-yard field goal through as time ran out and the Tigers took a 10-0 lead at the intermission.
“We attacked the ball and played really well on defense tonight,” Lus said. “We tried to get all of our guys in the box to stop Perez. We had four picks, which says our defensive backs worked our butts off to get ready. I thought as the game went on we got in their heads a little bit and were intimidating.”
Ephrata quarterback Trent Kleyn found Tony Oneel on a 40-yard strike to the 4, then hit Benthem on a 4-yard touchdown pass for the first touchdown. But it was Kleyn’s 44-yard touchdown run as time ran out in the third quarter that dealt the crushing blow.
“We wanted to come out and catch some long balls and make it hot,” said Benthem. “I think we did an amazing job. The defense was awesome and the offense feed off that energy.”
BJ Garza was wide with a 26-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter on a rare Othello trip to the red zone. The second half was more of the same Ephrata defense. Tristan Ritchie stripped a ball and Ty Dills came up with the recovery. Oneel had two second-half pass interceptions, including the interception to end the game.
Hollenback completed 7-of-18 for 35 yards. Efrain Palomares caught two balls for 18 yards and Barragan had four receptions for 10 yards.
Kleyn finished 4-of-9 for 59 yards and a touchdown. Oneel had seven carries for 59 yards.
“I don’t we think we expected them to explode to the ball the way they did on defense,” Gage Pruneda said. “They read our offense really good tonight.”
Ephrata travels to Quincy for the Battle of the Basin and Othello hosts East Valley on Friday
Othello 0 0 0 0 - 0
Ephrata 0 10 6 0 - 16
E - Josh Benthem 4 pass from Trent Kleyn (Benthem kick)
E - Benthem 26 yard field goal
E - Kleyn 44 run (kick fails)