WESTPORT — Pe Ell-Willapa Valley’s strategy on offense was clear Friday night: Hand the ball to Max Smith.
Smith rushed for three touchdowns and 217 yards on 36 carries in game that saw PWV take another step toward the league title as the Titans beat Ocosta 35-7 on Friday night.
The win locks PWV (6-2, 5-0 Coastal 2B) into the postseason and a chance to win a league title with a victory this week against Ilwaco.
Titans head coach Josh Fluke said it felt good to see players like Smith and some underclassmen step up with so many regular starters missing from the lineup.
“I got five starters out, so I got kids that haven’t played much varsity football and they’re stepping up and playing some good football,” he said. “It was really nice to come into an away game and beat them like that on their homecoming.”
Smith did most of his damage on the ground and opened the scoring by catching a 53-yard pass from Logan Walker on the opening drive to put PWV up 8-0 with 9:38 to go in the first quarter.
The Titans pushed their lead to 15-0 after a long, methodical drive that was capped off with a short goal line run from Smith with about three minutes to go in the first quarter.
PWV Freshmen Landin Isaksen got in on the scoring act as well with a 30-yard touchdown run to put PWV 21-0 after a missed extra point. Isaksen carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards in the contest.
Ocosta (4-3, 2-3) went to the ground in the first half with limited success. The Wildcats carried the ball 24 times for 42 yards in the game.
Despite Ocosta’s offensive struggles, the game remained close heading into halftime.
Ocosta quarterback Cole Hatton kept his team in it when he rolled out to his right and found Kobe Beck open 40 yards downfield for a touchdown to cute the lead to 21-7.
Wildcats head coach Chris Raffelson said his team had its opportunities to pull even but struggled to eliminate mistakes.
“We had momentum at different points in the game but penalties took us out of a few things,” he said. “We did pretty good. We were in the red zone four times and we only put it in once, so it was just little mistakes that did it.”
Penalties, particularly on defense, hamstrung the Wildcats comeback attempt. Ocosta racked up 95 yards on penalties in the game.
The Titans were almost shut out in the third quarter but managed to to come away with points with less than a minute left on a 26-yard completion to Wyatt Bush on a screen pass as PWV began to pull away.
Down three scores in the fourth quarter, Ocosta looked to throw its way back into the game but couldn’t string together enough completions to tie things up.
Hatton was under duress for most of the second half and often had to roll out of the pocket to buy time.
“We wanted to get as much pressure as we could on Cole Hatton because he’s one hell of a football player,” said Fluke. “They have the Kobe Beck kid and some good receivers so we just wanted to get pressure.”
With the game already in hand, the Titans punched it in one more time on a run outside the tackles from Smith on PWV’s final possession to put the icing on the cake.
With homecoming festivities surrounding the game, including a halftime fireworks show, the loss carries an extra sting, but Ocosta still has a lot to play for. The Wildcats can still secure a playoff spot with a win over Chief Leschi this week.
Raffelson said he has confidence his players can put the loss behind them.
“The team’s focused and they’re ready,” he said. “Anytime you change a program and the kids are learning it’s going to take a while to get adjusted, but I wouldn’t trade these kids for anything.”
PWV 15 6 7 7 — 35
Ocosta 0 7 0 0 — 7
Leading Passer: Ocosta — Hatton (10-21-0, 107 , TD); PWV — Walker (5-11-0, 98, TD)
Leading Rusher: Ocosta — Beck (17-38); PWV — Smith (36-217, 3 TD)
Leading Receiver: Ocosta — Beck (3-37, TD); PWV — Smith (2-48, TD)