ELLENSBURG — In their first game of the season, Royal High School fought hard for its opening win against Ellensburg 21-16.
Penalties and a costly turnover off a botched snap helped the Bulldogs go into the locker room with the lead in the first half, before Royal came back with a pair of touchdowns in the second half to pull away.
The Knights opened up the scoring in the game on their second play of their opening drive with a trick play. Derek Bergeson connected with Cooper Christensen for a 66-yard touchdown to put Royal up 7-0. Ellensburg responded with a field goal with a little over eight minutes to play in the first to cut into the lead.
A snap slipped off the Royal center’s hands in the middle of the second quarter, winding up in the hands of the Bulldogs who took the ball down to the 7-yard line. Brendan Swanson ran in for the score to put Ellensburg up 10-7 going into the half.
In the third quarter, Royal struck quickly with a 40-yard pass from Caleb Christensen to Cooper Christensen to put the Knights back on top 14-10. The Bulldogs blocked a field goal early in the fourth quarter to take over possession. Tyler Allred came up with an interception for the Knights with 7:45 to play in the fourth to give Royal the ball back.
Cooper Christensen caught his third touchdown of the day with a little over four minutes to play on a 17-yard pass from Caleb Christensen to put the Knights up 21-10. Ellensburg made a push in the final minutes, with a quarterback sneak by Ryan Ferguson to cut the lead to 21-16 after the missed extra point.
The Knights would hang on with their final possession to hold off the Bulldogs for the hard-fought win to open the season.
Royal head coach Wiley Allred said the win meant a lot against an opponent he felt would be tough coming in.
“It means a lot because I think Ellensburg’s a really good football team,” he said. “They had a lot of seniors, and a lot of them played last year. So we knew they were going to be tough, and they were exactly that.”
Wiley Allred said he felt the defense played well and that they just need to clean up some mistakes that led to some sacks on the offensive end. The Royal head coach said he felt the team came out stronger in the second half, after an up-and-down first.
“I told them we basically gave up a botched snap and three points,” Wiley Allred said. “That’s basically all we gave up in the first half. The rest we did to ourselves. It was nice to have a halftime and clean things up, and, obviously, it was nice to get a quick drive to open the third quarter.”
Wiley Allred said he felt new quarterback Caleb Christensen played well, with a strong second half, making some tough throws under pressure. The Royal head coach said he just needs to work on getting rid of the ball quicker on some instances, but said some of that is on himself and the offensive line.
Caleb Christensen finished with 279 yards passing (18-30), with a pair of touchdowns and one interception in his debut. On the ground, Lorenzo Myrick finished with 90 yards on 20 attempts, with four tackles on the defensive side.
Cooper Christensen had a huge day on the outside for the Knights, scoring three touchdowns, with 187 yards on seven grabs. Christensen said he felt preparation in the offseason and playing together as a team helped the Knights secure the win in the opener.
“It feels good, because we worked hard all summer,” Cooper Christensen said. “So just coming back and getting a win, feels good.”
Cooper Christensen said his connection with the quarterback is something that’s been building from a young age.
“We’ve grown up together since second grade, so we’ve always just been throwing balls and stuff,” he said.
The Knights finished with 407 yards of offense, 345 passing, in the game, giving up 273 to the Bulldogs.