Steve Dougherty couldn’t remember the last time his Camanche football team beat Northeast.
For sure, the Indians’ 33-20 homefield victory over the Rebels on Friday was the first in his six years at the helm of the once-struggling program.
But his team wasn’t focused so much on getting that elusive win over arch-rival Northeast. Rather, it was using the game — in Dougherty’s words — as a measuring stick for the program and this year’s team.
“They’re a quality program, and it’s just a measurement of where we are and what we’re capable of achieving this year,” he said.
Such was the same with last year’s team, which broke a 38-game losing streak in Week 2. Instead of celebrating the moment, the Indians went on to win six of seven district games and pick up the program’s first postseason victory in an eventual 7-3 season.
In a game where Indians quarterback Riley Linder was out-passed by Northeast signal-caller Mitch Haferbier 235 yards to 187, it was Linder’s quick strikes to his favorite target, Luke Reppert, that carried the Indians.
Reppert, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound senior, had five catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, including a big 68-yard dance down the right sideline late in the third period that gave all the wind to the Indians’ sails.
“It just worked for me; I guess it was a good day for me,” Reppert said. “The O-line did great, and there was great blocking. That’s how I got the ball.”
Linder said: “I’ve got to thank the coaches for putting us in that position. They call the plays, and they put us in those spots to be able to make those plays. But the O-line did a heck of a job blocking, and he found a way to get open.”
Coming into the second half, it appeared Northeast had the momentum. Down 20-6 midway through the second period, the Rebels turned to the Haferbier and Ben Hildebrandt show. The quarterback-to-receiver connection put up two quick touchdowns in a span of 76 seconds just before halftime.
First came a 28-yard Haferbier toss to Hildebrandt with 1:53 left, and this was after a penalty and a quarterback sack pushed the Rebels back from the Indians 19-yard line. On Camanche’s ensuing possession, Brad Spain intercepted a Linder pass to set up Haferbier’s next strike. That was a 30-yard scoring connection that tied the score at 20-apiece.
But Camanche (1-0) struck right back, marching down the field before Brandon Jewell rambled the final 23 yards to put the Indians back up 27-20 with 5:16 left. It was Jewell’s second score of the night, as he finished with 134 all-purpose yards, all but five of those rushing.
That set up Reppert’s final TD reception.
“The funny thing is, at about the 10-yard line, I started cramping up in both calves and it slowed me down when I got there,” he said. “But it was another (pass) down the middle. It was perfect, and I got a perfect block from Michael Osaro, and it was just perfect.”
The Indians were able to find some weaknesses in the Northeast defensive line to set up big gains all night long.
“The middle was very vulnerable, I think,” Reppert said. “The skinny posts were really working and it was working.”
Northeast coach Ryan Unruh said his team’s inability to establish a running game hurt in the second half, especially when Camanche seized back the momentum.
“We never were able to get that going for us,” he said. “You can’t rely on one phase of the game and expect to win-win-win by throwing the football. We’ve got a good group of guys up front and good running guys. We’re going to continue to work on that and I expect these guys to bounce back.
“But actually offensively, I was very pleased with what we did,” he continued. “Defensively I was disappointed. We gave up a lot of big plays down the sideline … and we just didn’t break down and probably tackle very well.”
Things weren’t all bad for Northeast (0-1). Haferbier’s great first-game passing performance found support from a balanced receiving corps in Hilderbrandt (six catches, 99 yards), Spain ( five for 55) and D.J. Fulton (seven for 81). But the offensive line broke down at key times, and Haferbier was sacked four times for total losses of 26 yards.
“Mitch did an absolutely outstanding job, he found guys all night long,” Unruh said. “We caught the ball when it was thrown to him, and I couldn’t ask for any more the effort out of him.”
Camanche takes to the road next Friday to tackle Bellevue, the very team that the Indians beat to break that long losing streak. Dougherty said that by playing a quality team such as Northeast in Week 1, his team now knows what it needs to work on to prepare for a possible second straight win before district play.
“Our secondary coverages were a little off, and I think we’ve got some technique work that needs polishing up,” the coach said.
Before the start of the varsity game, a moment of silence was observed for Tim Hickey, a longtime member of the Indians’ chain gang. Hickey passed away Feb. 28 at his home.
CAMANCHE 33, NORTHEAST 20
Northeast 6 14 0 0 — 20
Camanche 7 13 13 0 — 33
Cam — Brandon Jewell 5-yard pass from Riley Linder (Alex Goodwin kick) 5:31
NE — Kody Moehr 66-yard run (kick failed) 4:16
Cam — Luke Reppert 66-pard pass from Linder (Goodwin kick) 9:04
Cam — Jewell 5-yard run (kick failed) 5:14
NE — Ben Hildebrandt 28-yard pass from Mitch Haferbier (run failed) 1:53
NE — Hildebrandt 30-yard pass from Haferbier (Haferbier pass to Brad Spain) 0:37.8
Cam — Jewell 23-yard run (Goodwin kick) 5:16
Cam — Reppert 68-yard pass from Linder (kick failed) 1:20
First Downs 16 18
Rushes-Yards 24-79 47-292
Passing Yards 235 187
Comp-Att-Int 17-35-1 6-11-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Punts 4-40.3 0-0
Penalties 5-30 8-60
Rushing — Northeast, Kody Moehr 17-103, Landon Rorah 2-5, Mitch Haferbier 5-(-27); Camanche, David James 10-20, Michael Osaro 6-69, Brandon Jewell 17-129, Ian Boysen 2-7, Aaron Shum 5-22, Riley Linder 7-26.
Passing — Northeast, Mitch Haferbier 17-35-1-2-235; Camanche, Linder 6-11-1-2-187.
Receiving — Northeast, Brad Spain 5-55, Ben Hildebrandt 7-99, DJ Fulton 5-87; Camanche, Luke Reppert 5-182, Jewell 1-5.