CAMANCHE — The Camanche High School football team had not won a season opener in over five years and failed to capture a home victory the past four seasons.
The Indians figured the inaugural Battle of the Blue was an appropriate time to snap those skids.
Camanche quarterback Baylor Crigger was a force as both a passer and rusher, eclipsing triple digits in both areas to lead the Indians over the Rebels 34-16 Friday night.
“It means a lot; first of all it means we get off to a 1-0 start,” Camanche coach Dustin Coit said. “A lot of good things came from this to gain that confidence ... Northeast battled all night and it always a good game with them because of the rivalry, so it is a good feeling right now.”
The local rivalry took on new meaning this season, as the Indians proudly hoisted the first-ever Battle of the Blue trophy — a wooden platform with a split Camanche/Northeast football helmet attached — under the west goal post after the game.
Northeast struck first on its first possession of the contest, as quarterback and Nate Lange and Dakota Stevenson connected on a flawless option play from six yards out to take a 6-0 lead.
But Camanche countered with three consecutive touchdown drives, as Jordan Lawrence (8-yard rush), Raul Esparza (2-yard rush) and Crigger (13-yard rush) each scored to help the Indians take a 20-12 lead into halftime.
Coit said the response of his team after falling behind in the early moments of the contest was critical.
“Even when we got down early, I knew our guys would stay true to what we do and they did,” Coit said. “They executed and keep battling all the way throughout without having any letdowns.”
Dakota Stevenson, who recorded a 100-plus yard outing from scrimmage, made a critical play on defense to inject some life into Northeast by snaring Esparza’s fumble in the second quarter and returning it 77 yards for a touchdown to pull the Rebels within eight points.
Northeast coach Jerad Block said the Rebels will head to the film room to sort out the performance, but he knew immediately that his defense needs a jolt.
“We’re going to evaluate on film and try to figure out what went wrong and figure out who needs to step it up,” Block said. “On defense, we need to find a playmaker... we have guys that are content doing their jobs and not trying to make a play.”
Coit, in his second season at the helm, praised the competitively intelligent nature of Crigger, a multi-talented athlete that doubles as a linebacker on defense and a state-qualifying wrestler in the winter.
“He is the ultimate leader and a tough kid,” Coit said. “I trust him, if he wants something, we usually run it and I’m just glad he is on our side.”
Northeast is known for its electric passing attack led by Lange and senior receivers Dawson Stoll and Braeden Hoyer. Coit said he was pleased with the way his defense minimized the damage done by the Rebels’ trio.
“Those guys are studs,” Coit said. “Coming into the game, we were worried about all of them but Eric Campie did a nice job on Hoyer all night and Stoll broke loose a couple times, but good players are going to do that.
“We bent a couple times but did not break.”
Both teams are back in action on Friday, as Northeast (0-1) will once again play on the road, traveling to take on Wilton on. Camanche (1-0) will look to build on its victory with a trip to Bellevue.