YAKIMA, Wash. -- After a brutal early schedule that saw his young and transitional football team score just two points in three games, Naches Valley’s first-year coach Matt Keeler got his first win last Friday.
One of the interesting contributors to that victory was Nick Mueller, who scored 13 points in a somewhat rare fashion for this region and on a field you would least expect it.
The junior soccer standout booted three field goals and four PATs in the 37-7 win at Cle Elum, where the field was wet and slick from a steady rain.
“It just poured at the beginning and there was a mist all through the rest of the game,” Keeler said. “Afterward somebody said it was 38 degrees. In those conditions, and most of the time anyway, I’m an aggressive coach who likes to go for it on fourth down. But Nick is a real weapon and we want to use him.”
Mueller’s first two field goals covered 27 and 32 yards, but his third was an impressive 43 yards considering how cold and wet it was.
“I didn’t want to punt and we were within his range,” the coach said. “I asked Nick, ‘Do you think you can make it in this weather?’ He said sure. So he went out and thumped it.”
The Yakima region has never been a hotbed for kickers, and Mueller’s three field goals tied the Valley record for most in a single game. The first to do it was also from Naches Valley, John Blanchard in 1981.
Three weeks ago when the Rangers were struggling to get anything going against East Valley, Keeler had Mueller try a 63-yarder.
“We had a pretty good wind at our backs and I was just trying to get something the kids could be excited about,” Keeler said. “He’s made 50-plus kicks in practice so with that wind, I thought why not give it a try.”
Naches Valley returns to its challenging schedule Friday hosting Connell. But then resumes SCAC West play with consecutive games against Goldendale, Highland and Granger. In a division with powerful front-runners Zillah and La Salle, this stretch will determine who gets the No. 3 crossover spot.
“Our nonleague games haven’t been easy and neither was Zillah, but we’ve got a shot at third,” Keeler said. “I want us to play to our potential and get the kids thinking about that goal. We’ve had some tough Fridays, but we’re making progress.”
• For a look at Mueller’s 43-yard boot, see the Naches Valley Ranger Football facebook page.
There and back again
On the day her Goldendale volleyball team survived a five-set battle at Zillah, Jodi Bellamy got a facebook flashback from what she was posting a year ago.
Covered bridges, hiking trials and stunning fall colors from the New England states.
Inducted into the volleyball coaches Hall of Fame two years ago, Bellamy had retired after that 2017 season. Knowing a fall season without being courtside would be difficult, she scheduled last year’s bucket-list trip at precisely that time.
“I seriously thought I was done. It was the perfect time,” Bellamy said. “There would be more time for my family and (real estate) business and I still coached our U-14 club team. It was time to go.”
But Bellamy also knew if the varsity position came open again, she would be tempted. It did, and she was.
“When I retired, even though the time was right, I didn’t know what I would do if the job came open,” she said. “I did miss it terribly.”
It hasn’t taken long for Bellamy and the Timberwolves to get back in form. Goldendale is 5-0 in the SCAC West and 8-0 overall with a big match looming Tuesday at La Salle.
“It’s a joy and I love to do it,” Bellamy said. “It was funny, the timing of those (facebook) flashbacks. We go all five at Zillah and had to rally big to win it, and there I was a year ago, traveling through all that beautiful country, so peaceful and wonderful. Quite a change.”
Rising to the occasion
Every running back believes, with the right circumstances and blocking, he’s capable of putting up big numbers. But it’s not likely Arturo Fernandez foresaw Friday’s performance.
With just 15 carries in his previous three games, the Sunnyside senior broke out for a school-record 301 yards in last Friday’s 21-14 home win over West Valley. More than the yards were the punishing 37 carries.
Coach John Lobbestael said the original plan was for Fernandez, who is heavily involved in special teams, to share time in the backfield with sophomore Devin Escamilla. But with Escamilla sidelined by an injury and the Grizzlies’ offensive line proving effective at paving the way, Fernandez’s number got called a bunch.
Fernandez broke off runs of 32, 29 and 21 yards in the first half, and 31 and 29 yards in the fourth quarter as Sunnyside held off WV’s comeback.
The Grizzlies’ previous school record was 298 yards set by Zeke Sanchez in 1991.
Zillah, La Salle move up
With Zillah and La Salle bumping up a spot this week, the SCAC now has three of the top four teams in the Associated Press’ Class 1A state football poll.
The West Division pair moved up to No. 3 and 4, respectively, by jumping over Lynden Christian, which dropped from third to fifth following a 24-8 loss to No. 2 Mount Baker.
I get that perennial power Royal is a quick and easy pick at No. 1, but Mount Baker started its 4-0 season with a 21-14 win over Lynden. The Lions have since risen to second in 2A with wins over No. 3 Archbishop Murphy and No. 5 Steilacoom.
Here’s the showdown date and site: Zillah at La Salle, Oct. 18.
From the note file
• With the Bellevue Invitational slow to post results last weekend, a couple of fine efforts got missed: West Valley’s Brayden Packard was runner-up in 15:28 and Eisenhower sophomore Hannah Hilton turned in the top local time for girls at 19:46 on the 5K course.
• At Saturday’s Mukilteo swim meet in the state pool, Davis’ Emma Fischer placed 10th out of 37 divers with a score of 282.90, and Eisenhower’s Addie Mitchell was 11th in the 500 free.