EDMONDS — The Meadowdale Mavericks ran the ball 34 times Friday night. Nine of those carries lost yards, 12 were for gains of 4 yards or less, and just five went for double-digit yardage.
But the Mavericks still finished the night with 316 rushing yards, due mainly to three long touchdown runs that were the difference in a 28-18 season-opening win over Kamiak at Edmonds District Stadium.
Senior running back Giavani Shepard had TD carries of 57 and 51 yards, and senior running back Morgan Masanda added a spectacular 91-yard scamper to highlight the non-conference victory for the Mavericks.
When Meadowdale needs a big play, coach Mark Stewart said with a grin after the game, “those are the guys. And it’s nice luxury to have.”
“We just have to give them a hole and they can make some big plays,” added Mavericks center Nate Cloud-Rouzan, a senior and four-year starter.
Shepard finished the night with 175 yards on just nine carries (he also had a 34-yarder) with two touchdowns. Masanda tacked on 103 yards on seven attempts with a touchdown, while running back Chace Diemond added 33 yards on 11 rushes with a touchdown.
Masanda’s long touchdown run was one for the highlight film. He started right, but the way was clogged with defenders, so he reversed direction, got to the left sideline, raced into the secondary and cut to the middle of the field. With two last defenders to beat, he faked past one and broke the other’s tackle on his way to the end zone.
“Just like I drew it up,” Stewart said with a laugh.
The Mavericks had two first-quarter touchdowns and another midway through the second period, and with a 21-3 lead it looked like the game might become a rout. But the Knights started slowly due to some early mistakes and injuries, and they turned it around late in the second quarter with a long touchdown drive to cut the margin to 21-10.
Kamiak was driving again just before halftime, but a last-minute interception in the end zone by Meadowdale’s Josiah Evans snuffed that drive.
After a scoreless third quarter, Kamiak trimmed the margin to 21-18 with a 7-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brett Ludeman to wide receiver Gabe Meshesha and a two-point conversion. But on the second play after the kickoff Meadowdale struck again with a 51-yard dash up the middle by Shepard. He broke some arm tackles at the line of scrimmage, cut to the left sideline and won a footrace to the end zone.
The Knights were threatening again late in the game, but running back Kyle McMillan lost the football as he reached the Mavericks’ 28-yard line on a big hit by linebacker Michael Cummings, and defensive back Nate Tibbott pounced on the loose ball to end the threat.
Meadowdale needed just two first downs to run out the remaining minutes on the clock.
“I thought we played well,” Stewart said. “We wanted to establish our run game and we were able to do that, especially early. But then we started having penalties and we had a lot of new people out there, and we kind of lost a little rhythm.
“So I thought we played well enough to win … but I think we can play better,” he said.
“It was good for a first game,” Cloud-Rouzan said. “There are some things we have to work on, but we had some good moments, too, so we can build on that. And I think our ceiling is really high. We definitely have some potential.”
Kamiak lost senior tailback and cornerback Isaiah Lee to a left ankle or knee injury in the first quarter (he went to the hospital to be examined), and senior defensive back Tyri Bethea and senior linebacker/fullback Joel Seirra also went out with injuries.
Because of injuries and first-game nerves, “we sputtered for a while in the first half,” Kamiak coach Dan Mack said. “For a little bit it was two steps forward, one step back. But I think we settled down in the second half and played a little bit better.
“But you just can’t turn the ball over three times against a team like Meadowdale,” he said. “So it’s frustrating. I’m disappointed in terms of the loss, but I know there’s a lot of promise, too. We’ll correct some things and be ready to go next week.”