MT. ANGEL – Even though Bishop Mitchell rushed for 129 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns Friday, the Kennedy High football team’s junior running back couldn’t take the credit for the 38-8 home win against Santiam.
As far as Mitchell was concerned, the play of the offensive line made it easy for Mitchell and fellow running back Dylan Arritola to combine for four touchdowns and more than 200 yards on the ground.
“This was the line’s game,” Mitchell said. “They got it done. Once we get a push with those guys, we were hard to stop. I mean, on every down, they just push as hard as they can and that’s all we need.”
Kennedy coach Joe Panuke felt the same way.
“We ran the ball probably 90 percent of the time and our line was just paving the way for us,” he said. “They were lights out for us.”
The offensive line played a critical role in getting the Trojans (5-0 overall, 1-0 Tri-River) off to a fast start against the Wolverines (3-2, 0-1).
After running back Arritola scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown, the offensive line sprung quarterback Brett Traeger free for a 33-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Santiam fumbled the ball and freshman Rocco Carley scooped up the ball at the 8-yard line and ran it in for the touchdown with 22 seconds left in the quarter.
The lead turned out to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome, despite a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter by Jonah Statezny.
Despite having two touchdowns called back due to holding penalties in the first half, Kennedy amassed a 19-8 halftime lead before the Kennedy running game took over in the second half.
A 16-yard rushing touchdown by Mitchell and a 37-yard touchdown run by Arritola on the second play of the fourth quarter gave the Trojans a cushion before Mitchell tacked on a 47-yard touchdown run, slicing through the Santiam defense, with 7:41 remaining in the game.
With Mitchell’s 129 rushing yards, Arritola added 75 yards on the ground and two scores to pace the Trojans.
“Dylan’s probably our most valuable player,” Panuke said. “He’s played line, he’s played tight end, he’s played fullback and he’s played middle linebacker. As he goes, we go. And Bishop is just a phenomenal athlete. He’s a game-changer and on any touch, he can take it to the house. He’s the one everyone is watching on film and the one they’re wanting to shut down, but he’s just so fast that it’s really hard”
As impressive as Kennedy’s ground game was, its defense smothered Santiam. The Wolverines sustained several clock-eating drives, but the Kennedy defense stopped Santiam on four separate fourth-down conversion attempts throughout the game.
“Our defense has a lot of pride,” Panuke said. “They kind of kick into a different gear when they get the ball on our end of the field or when it’s on fourth down. When we have our backs against the wall, they step it up.”
Overall, Panuke was happy with how the Trojans played.
“We definitely played really well, even though we had two touchdowns called back in the first half because of penalties,” he said. “The guys were kind of bummed out at halftime because they felt they should have done better, but we played pretty well, though. We’ve just got to eliminate the bad football, which is something we focus on a lot.”
The Trojans will now focus on a rivalry game against Regis, which is set for Oct. 8.
“It’s always fun,” Panuke said. “It’s a rivalry game. You get lots of fans coming out and it’s just a long-standing tradition. Regis and Kennedy have been good at football for a long time and it’s just two good football program going after it.”