As he watched his players celebrate among friends and family at Marquette Stadium, Cody Lamb had trouble taking his own advice and could not fend off a bit of melancholy.
“I love that they’re enjoying the moment, and that’s exactly what I want them to do,” said La Salle’s football coach. “But for me, as we move on, it’s another week that’s gone by with these seniors in their last season. They’re so special to me because of who they are and what they’ve done.”
What they did Friday night was deliver a signature victory for the program, soundly defeating rival Zillah 42-14 for the first time in school history and bringing an end to the Leopards’ 45-game SCAC West win streak.
“It means a lot to us because we haven’t beaten them,” said Nathan Sedgwick, one of 16 seniors for the Lightning. “Our approach was just to prepare hard and treat it like any other game, but it’s Zillah. We kept our focus and played a great game.”
In all phases, especially where Lamb wanted to most — a punishing ground game.
In exactly the same way that Zillah has handled La Salle in the past, the Lightning muscled up behind a stout offensive line and used the Kershaw cousins — Ryan and Kieran — to grind out 295 yards on the ground on 60 ball-control plays.
“We’ve got a very good offensive line and Ryan and Kieran are hard-working, determined players,” Lamb said. “These kids were prepared and really mature with how they handled themselves this week. The seniors have been amazing with their leadership for a game like this.”
Junior running back Ryan Kershaw was the workhorse with 119 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, and senior quarterback Kieran Kershaw was the double threat he’s known for with 108 yards rushing and 115 in the air.
The Lightning wasted no time in the showdown of state-ranked unbeatens, scoring on all four first-half possessions to open a 28-7 lead at the break. The last drive was especially back-breaking for Zillah.
Getting the ball near midfield at the 4:42 mark thanks to one of the Leopards’ four turnovers, La Salle used 10 running plays between the tackles to drain the clock down. Then, after a penalty created a fourth-and-long with 27 seconds left, Kieran Kershaw connected with Ryan Kershaw on a 19-yard scoring toss.
“Controlling the line of scrimmage was key, and Kieran did a great job mixing things up with his decisions,” Lamb noted. “That was a big one at the end of the (first) half.”
Zillah’s sophomore quarterback Clay Delp threw for 216 yards, but the Lightning intercepted three passes. Axcel Valladares, Kieran Kershaw and Sedgwick — all seniors — came up with the picks.
“We were prepared and had a good game plan,” said Sedgwick, who also caught a touchdown pass. “We have great running backs, and they got us going right at the start.”
La Salle’s defensive effort also held Zillah to 93 yards rushing and included tackling Delp for a loss five times.
Zillah (4-1 league, 6-1 overall) has a nonleague game next week against Toppenish and then wraps up West play against Cle Elum. La Salle (4-0, 7-0) has two league games remaining against Cle Elum and Naches Valley.
“We’ll enjoy this night and get back to work tomorrow,” Lamb said. “We’ll just keep on going.”
Zillah 7 0 0 7—14
La Salle 13 15 7 7—42
La Salle — Kieran Kershaw 5 run (kick failed)
Zillah — Braydon Flood 5 run (Jorge Espinoza kick)
La Salle — Ryan Kershaw 9 run (Nathan Ponce kick)
La Salle — Nathan Sedgwick 16 pass from K. Kershaw (Ponce kick)
La Salle — R. Kershaw 19 pass from K. Kershaw (K. Kershaw run)
La Salle — K. Kershaw 1 run (Pomce kick)
Zillah — Mason Landdeck 35 pass from Clay Delp (Espinoza kick)
La Salle — Axcel Valladares 15 run (Ponce kick)
RUSHING — Zillah, Flood 7-34, Wesley Avila 8-32, Zane Giles 4-11, Juan Avalos 2-10, Delp 11-7, Team 1-(minus 1). La Salle, R. Kershaw 26-119, K. Kershaw 19-108, Valladares 6-39, Jarrin Baken 4-37, Sahil Randhawa 3-(minus 7), Team 1-(minus 1).
PASSING — Zillah, Delp 14-22-3-216. La Salle, K. Kershaw 9-13-1-115.
RECEIVING — Zillah, Sebastian Godina 6-56, Avalos 3-88, Landdeck 2-47, Avila 2-15, Wiley Karas 1-10. La Salle, R. Kershaw 3-34, Randhawa 2-32, Sedgwick 2-25, Harley Hemenway 1-23, Valladares 1-1.