The Deer Park Stags rolled up 398 yards of total offense in their season opener on Friday but none were as important as the final 6 of them.
Wide receiver Caleb Guske covered those final precious 18 feet when he hauled in a touchdown pass from Colton Mead with 25 seconds remaining to secure a 37-33 win over Chewelah. It was Mead’s fourth touchdown pass of the game.
“I meant to get him the ball,” said Mead on the Stags’ final offensive play of the game. “He’s a good basketball player and he can leap.”
Mead finished 19 of 28 for 270 yards.
The home-standing Stags, who only punted once in the game, led 30-19 going into the fourth quarter only to see Cougars finally take the lead 33-30 with on a 2-yard run by Chewelah quarterback Derke Smith with 4:10 remaining.
Smith finished with a game high 122 yards rushing.
The Stags only needed one play to get the ball back to the Cougar 12-yard line only to fumble the ball on the next snap. Chewelah’s Dylan Long recovered and the Cougars, who showed off a relentless rushing attack the entire game, only needed to control the final 3 minutes to leave with a win.
The Stag defense had other ideas. Three plays later the Cougars were forced to punt for the first time in the game and the Stags got the ball back with slightly more than 71 seconds left in the game.
“I told the guys this is it, we need to score,” Mead said.
If Guske’s 6 yards was the most important chunk of real estate in the game, Zach Mohr’s 25-yard reception on the final drive ranked No. 2.
Faced with a fourth-and-6 at the Deer Park 42-yard line, Mohr outleaped a Chewelah defender for a 25-yard reception to keep the drive alive. Mohr and Mead connected on a 27-yard pass-and-catch on the next play, setting up Guske’s game-winning catch.
Chewelah’s last chance ended with a Dalton Hanson interception, his third pick of the game for the Stags.
“I was proud of our kids’ effort and their composure,” said Stag head coach Keith Stamps, who joked that he aged a little bit during the game.
The Stag head man was not surprised by his team’s offensive showing in the first game. It was the Stags highest point total in a season opener since they beat Chewelah 41-21 in 1988.
“We spread the ball around a little more than we thought we would,” Stamps added.
Four different Stags caught passes from Mead. One of them who was shutout, senior tight end Dylan Miller, contributed a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter after Hanson lost control of the ball at the Cougar 2-yard line. Miller also ended a Chewelah drive with an interception early in the third quarter.
Hanson led the Stag ground game with 92 yards rushing on 9 carries. He also caught 9 passes for 120 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown grab late in the second quarter to give the Stags a 30-19 halftime lead.
Deer Park remains at home this week for a 7 p.m. game on Friday against Lakeside. The Eagles are coming off a season-opening 35-27 loss to Pullman last week.