Following a three-game road trip to open the season, the Rainier High School football team played in front of its home crowd for the first time on Friday, Sept. 22 and defeated Morton-White Pass, 52-26, in a non-league matchup.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a quick start, halting the Timberwolves’ opening drive with a fourth down stop. The offense got the crowd riled up with a long pass from quarterback Jake Meldrum to wide receiver Hunter Howell on a flea flicker, and the Mountaineers punched in their first touchdown and two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead.
The Timberwolves hushed the crowd with a quick touchdown drive and then another after Rainier fumbled the kickoff and took a 14-8 lead through the first quarter.
In the past two weeks, the Mountaineers struggled to respond offensively and get stops defensively once their opponent took a lead. Against the Timberwolves, however, they took every punch and answered on both ends. Meldrum found Howell on a long throw to tie it at 14, and a MWP turnover on downs set the Mountaineers up at their 40. Meldrum connected with his brother, Josh, on a long third down, and the quarterback scored on the ground just before halftime to make it 22-14.
Rainier took command of the game in the third quarter with a touchdown pass from Meldrum to his brother followed by a successful two-point conversion. After a long delay due to an injured official, the Timberwolves ripped the momentum back with two long touchdown drives, including an 85-yard touchdown pass that cut the 30-14 lead to 30-26.
Rainier head coach Andy Bartell’s emphasis on focus and discipline during offseason practice showed in the final seven minutes of the game. The Mountaineers didn’t flinch after the two quick touchdowns. Senior running back Chris Grey took the handoff on the first play and dashed just short of the red zone, and the Mountaineers capitalized with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
On defense, Howell intercepted a pass and nearly took it to the house. Jake Meldrum and Howell scored touchdowns in the closing minutes to seal the 52-26 victory.
“That’s the way we want to finish games is to be able to get first downs late in the game,” Bartell said. “We were able to move pieces around and function and get better defensively, and the crowd was great tonight.”
“It feels good getting back on track after two hard losses,” said Meldrum, who scored three touchdowns on the night, two of them on the ground. “It feels good to put up 50 points and get a win at home.”
Grey dominated in the victory with 132 rushing yards on 16 carries. Sophomore Jayden Alegarbes added 85 rushing yards and a score, while sophomore Dorien Cano rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown. Howell logged two rushing touchdowns and 49 receiving yards, as well as the fourth quarter interception.
“It feels really good after not winning too many games last year to now being 2-2,” Howell said. “We’re really looking forward to building on this momentum, and we’re looking to go get a couple more wins this season.”
“It was just a team effort. It wasn’t a one-man effort. All 11 worked hard,” Grey said.
Rainier improved to 2-2 with the victory, matching the team’s win total from last season. The Mountaineers will host Ilwaco High School at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29 in a conference game.
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