The last time Onalaska and Adna played, in Week 8 of the regular season, the undefeated Loggers wound up in their closest game of the year with just an eight point victory. This time around, in the state semifinals, Onalaska chopped all the drama out of the contest early and continued their furious march to the state title game with a 44-13 win over their Mountain Division foes.
To be sure, that type of domination is not just a problem for the boys in blue and gold from Adna. After four playoff games the Loggers have now outscored their opponents 204-20.
Quarterback Lucas Kreger was integral to the Loggers’ offense right from the get go here on Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Centralia as he ran for his team’s first three scores of the night.
“They just shifted into the right areas to give me the right read. I think they were looking for Ashton (Haight) to take most of the handoffs and thought I was hurt or something. But that’s not the case,” said Kreger amid the postgame celebrations.
By the final horn, he’d amassed 68 rushing yards on 10 carries to go with 39 passing yards that included a 13-yard air strike to Braedon Marshall for a touchdown just before halftime. That score gave Onalaska a commanding 28-7 lead and the Loggers never looked back.
“They were stacking the box a little bit so we could spread them out and air the ball out a little bit to get guys open. We just needed the confidence to do it,” noted Kreger.
Onalaska coach Mazen Saade agreed with his senior signal caller’s assessment.
“We saw the first time that we played against them that (the pass) was there. Today we saw that it was there and we took a couple of opportunities,” said Saade. “Braedon Marshall came down with a huge first down catch and we wound up going right back to him with a jump ball in the endzone and he comes down with the catch. That was big time right before the half.”
Those points proved crucial to keep Adna out of striking distance. After Onalaska went up 12-0 to start the game the Pirates answered back with a promising drive of their own. Adna quarterback Braden Thomas churned up the final three yards for a score with 9:21 left in the half and the extra point left the Pirates trailing by only five.
Adna coach KC Johnson noted that his team was playing without defensive lineman Devan Young due to injury, but went out of his way to tout the prowess of a juggernaut Onalaska team.
“We were hurting. Our All-League D-tackle wasn’t able to play and that hurt us because they found the weakness over on that side and just kept pounding,” said Johnson. “But we were able to make some adjustments. Even at 20-7, if we don’t give up that score right before half, I thought we’d be able to make some more adjustments and keep ourselves in it mentally. But you know what, they came on a mission tonight and they’re just so big and strong and they were just pounding right at us.”
Ashton Haight took care of the bulk of that jackhammer work for Onalaska with 269 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries that helped to bleed the clock down and take the life out of the Pirates.
Adna punched in their second, and final, score of the night five minutes into the fourth quarter after quarterback Braden Thomas got loose for a 44-yard run down to the one-yard line. Two plays later, he punched in the touchdown to create what would become the lasting score. Thomas finished the game with 83 rushing yards on 15 carries. Receiver Ryan Young caught one pass for 30 yards in the contest to lead the Pirates’ receiver corps.
Johnson admitted that walking off the field for the final time with a group of seniors is always hard, especially when they’ve accomplished so much in their careers.
“They are great kids. That senior class won 37 ballgames and if you’re winning 9 games a year you’re doing something right. Like I told them, they work hard for us. They lift. They do everything we ask and we just ran into a buzzsaw tonight that was just coming forward and it was hard to stop,” said Johnson. “I just told them I love them. Any time you lose a senior class it’s a bit emotional.”
The Onalaska defensive secondary was instrumental in the victory as they held Adna to just 55 passing yards and four completions on 19 attempts. Gunnar Talley and Kayden Allison showed up time and time again in pass coverage, with Allison even pulling down an interception in the red zone during the third quarter.
With a date in the state championship game cemented for the Loggers, their quarterback relayed what everyone else in purple and gold was already thinking.
“It feels amazing. We’re all going to take it in, take a deep breath and enjoy it. It’s going to be nice,” said Kreger.
Coach Saade was similarly pleased, if a bit anxious to begin thinking about next week’s opponent already.
“There is only one game left. This was all the kids’ goal to get here. Now it comes down to everything we’ve preached since spring. It comes down to the little things and these guys know it. The penalties. The fumbles. Make good decisions. It will come down to all of the little things and our mental toughness,” said Saade. “Kalama is a helluva team. We saw that earlier tonight. They’re a really good team and they’ve won state the last two years in a row. Here they are for the third straight year playing for a state championship… We’re going to enjoy this for the next 24-hours and then we’re going to get back to work.”