What a difference a season makes.
Twelve months ago, the White River Hornets struggled to reach the end zone. This year’s crew managed that all-important feat in less than three minutes. In 2008, the Hornets needed a 10th week of the campaign to register a victory. This time around, a convincing win was signed, sealed and delivered in 48 minutes.
White River opened the season Friday night by putting a 41-18 whipping on the Franklin Pierce Cardinals. Making things even better, the victory was against a South Puget Sound League foe. And, providing icing on the cake, the triumph came in front of an appreciative home crowd.
The Hornet faithful were longing for highlights and the team provided a handful.
Blake Tidwell opened the season with a bang, carrying the ball 21 times, gaining 156 yards and scoring four touchdowns. He was also a force on defense, registering a team-high 12 tackles, 10 of those solo efforts. Quarterback Markus Kaelin was an efficient 8-of-15 passing and picked up 49 yards on 10 carries. And Josh Lenhart had three catches for 95 yards, 46 of those yards coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown reception.
As a team, the Hornets punished the Cards on the ground, picking up 245 yards; add that to Kaelin’s 156 yards through the air and White River outgained its guest 401-299.
The Hornets wasted little time jumping on top of the Cardinals, taking advantage of a turnover to find the end zone at the 9:05 mark. Michael Madden did the scoring honors, hauling in a pass from Kaelin that covered 37 yards.
White River added a TD on its next possession, with Tidwell blasting in from two yards out. Kevin Moore added his second extra-point kick of the evening and the Hornets had a quick 14-0 lead.
The visitors cut the margin to 14-6 midway through the second period and forced White River into a quick punt, but the Cards gave the ball right back. An errant pitched was pounced on by Kaelin and the Hornets took control on the Franklin Pierce 23-yard line. Tidwell eventually crashed into the end zone and, after the White River defense forced a Cardinal punt, the Hornets mounted another scoring drive. Tidwell again capped the effort, scoring from four yards out.
The Hornets headed to the locker room with a healthy 27-6 lead, largely thanks to a defense that held Franklin Pierce to just 16 rushing yards during the first half.
Things got just a bit interesting when the Cardinals scored the only touchdown of the third quarter, then added six points on the first play of the fourth frame. The Cards were guilty of an unsportsmanlike penalty on the TD play, pushing the extra-point try to the 18-yard line and, when an attempted two-point conversion was no good, the Hornets maintain a bit of breathing room at 27-18.
If the Cards were dreaming of a comeback, the Hornets quickly squashed those hopes. White River needed just four plays to cover 65 yards and find paydirt, the drive capped by a 46-yard strike from Kaelin to Lenhart.
The Hornets’ final score of the evening was provided by Tidwell midway through the fourth quarter. He darted into the middle of the Cardinal defense, found an opening and simply outraced everyone to the end zone.
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