ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Prior to Ellensburg’s CWAC showdown game against Prosser on Friday night, a dozen members of the Bulldogs’ 1973 state championship team were introduced to the homecoming crowd at Andreotti Field.
Then those heroes of Ellensburg’s greatest team were treated to what might well have been the greatest half in Ellensburg football history ... followed by what very nearly turned out to be the finest hour in Prosser football history.
In a truly weird, wild and profoundly unusual game, the Bulldogs built a 31-point halftime lead against the Class 2A state semifinalists, then saw the Mustangs come within a missed extra point of being able to play for a tie — and a chance to send the game into overtime — in the waning moments of Ellensburg’s 52-43 victory.
How weird was this game? Well, Ellensburg sophomore quarterback Donny Ellersick threw for five touchdowns and 346 yards — in the first half — well on pace to shatter the state single-game passing record. And he didn’t even finish the night as the game’s most prolific passer.
That honor went to Prosser senior Mason Schutt, who passed for 271 of his 375 yards — and five of his six TD passes — during the Mustangs’ second-half rally.
“It was just a great game,” said Ellensburg junior running back Gabe Caskey, who caught two touchdown passes — including a 58-yarder for the game’s first score — and ran for 118 yards and two more scores.
Caskey was also in on double-digit tackles as the Bulldogs’ middle linebacker, joining end Jensen Lillquist, reserve tackle Michael Anderson and cornerback Benny Lee as difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball for Ellensburg.
“We came out and played relaxed, played loose,” Caskey added. “We trust Donny (Ellersick) so much. One guy goes down, the next guy steps into his shoes. That’s all it is.”
Ellersick was making only his second start after the Bulldogs’ star junior quarterback, Garrett Hull, suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. But he was clearly up to the task: He hit Caskey with two scoring passes, found Trent Walker and Lee with short passes that they turned into 66- and 80-yard touchdown plays, respectively, and also hit Walker in stride on a 44-yard scoring bomb down the sideline.
All before halftime.
“Oh yeah, it was awesome,” Ellersick said. “Oh my god, everything was clicking. It felt so good. I was nervous, but everybody had confidence in me, and once we scored the first time I was just ready to go. Everything was just working.”
“It was something special — the first half, at least,” Caskey said. “It got a little scary towards the end.”
Actually, it got a lot scary for the Bulldogs.
Following a 60-yard Caskey run for a touchdown late in the third quarter, the Mustangs entered the final period trailing 45-14. But they weren’t done. In that final quarter, Prosser blocked two punts, recovered two onsides kicks and very nearly pulled off the comeback of the season.
Schutt threw scoring passes to JJ Martin and Cardell Jones — who would finish with two and three TD receptions, respectively — and added a conversion pass to Martin to pull within 45-29. Eight minutes still remained when the Mustangs were driving for another score — which might have made it a one-score game — when Lee came up with the play of the game.
On third-and-goal from the 5, Schutt threw to a receiver in the corner of the end zone. Lee stepped in front, caught the ball five yards deep in the end zone, and took off the other direction. Some 104 yards later, Schutt dragged him down at the 1-yard-line, setting up Caskey’s clinching touchdown.
“I saw an out (route) coming and I just drove on it, and once I got it, I just wanted to run with it,” said Lee, who had two picks on the night. “I was way in back (of the end zone), but it was kind of instinct.”
Schutt threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:10 and had a chance for a third, thanks to the two recovered onsides kicks — one of which bounced off Ellersick.
“When they kicked the first onsides kick and it bounced off my chest,” Ellersick said, “I was just thinking oh my god, here we go.”
Ben Stockdale’s interception ended Prosser’s last hope, capping a remarkable night.
Prosser 0 7 7 29 — 43
Ellensburg 14 24 7 7 — 52
Ell — Gabe Caskey 58 pass from Donny Ellersick (Juan Rodriguez kick)
Ell — Trent Walker 66 pass from Ellersick (Rodriguez kick)
Ell — FG Rodriguez 23
Pro — Cardell Jones 42 pass from Mason Schutt (David Ledesma kick)
Ell — Benny Lee 80 pass from Ellersick (Rodriguez kick)
Ell — T. Walker 44 pass from Ellersick (Rodriguez kick)
Ell — Caskey 12 pass from Ellersick (Rodriguez kick)
Pro — JJ Martin 7 pass from Schutt (Ledesma kick)
Ell — Caskey 60 run (Rodriguez kick)
Pro — Martin 23 pass from Schutt (Ledesma kick)
Pro — Jones 24 pass from Schutt (Martin pass from Schutt)
Ell — Caskey 1 run (Rodriguez kick)
Pro — Jones 16 pass from Schutt (kick failed)
Pro — Ethan Hibbs 25 pass from Schutt (Miguel Montano pass from Schutt)
RUSHING — Prosser, Adrian Lochrie 8-15, Thomas Niemeyer 10-40, Mason Schutt l0-11. Ellensburg, Gabe Caskey 18-118, Seth Walker 6-15, Brayton Leach 3-2, Donny Ellersick 4-(minus 9).
PASSING — Prosser, Schutt 25-51-4-375. Ellensburg, Ellersick 14-24-1-366.
RECEIVING — Prosser, Cardell Jones 9-155, JJ Martin 6-72, Javier Diaz 6-94, Ethan Hibbs 4-54. Ellensburg, Trent Walker 4-147, Ben Lee 3-88, Caskey 3-116, Leach 2-6, Ben Stockdale 1-10, S. Walker 1-(minus 1).
• This article has been updated to include the score.