CASHMERE - Coach Bob Ames never lost perspective about the bittersweet nature of Meridian's football season.
"We've had more than our share of disappointments, but we also have more than our share of great memories," the 40-season coaching legend said. "Especially some great stuff in practice. These kids are really fun to be with."
Likely the most stinging disappointment was seeing Latrez Jones being consoled on the bench by teammates and coaches in the second half of Meridian's 41-22 loss to Cashmere in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs Saturday, Nov. 16, at Cashmere Stadium.
Jones began the game in typical style, getting open over the middle on Meridian's first play to score a 54-yard touchdown on a beautifully thrown pass by junior quarterback Tanner Tutterrow.
When Jones followed in the next quarter with a 4-yard, fourth-down run for his 31st touchdown of the season, the play pulled the Trojans (7-5) within 21-14 of the Caribou Trail League champion Bulldogs (11-1) with 8:27 left in the first half.
The 58-yard, 14-play drive - on which Tutterrow completed first-down passes of 8 yards to Jacob Plagerman on fourth down and 13 yards to Sam Chambers on third down - seemed to make a statement about competing with a team the caliber of Cashmere.
What nobody knew at the time, however, was that Jones had sustained an apparent injury to his right hip and would run the ball only one more time in his storied senior season.
After his second touchdown, Jones was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half. He gamely tried to play on the first series of the second half, but he was obviously in great pain and make his usual moves.
"That injury cost Letrez his 2,000 yard season," Ames said, noting another disappointment.
Jones needed 71 yards rushing coming in for 2,000 but finished with 31 yards on 10 carries, giving him 1,960.
However, Jones amassed far more than 2,000 yards in all-purpose running when his receiving and returns are considered, so he'll long be remembered as one of Ames' most productive players.
In fact, Cashmere respected Jones' speed and moves so much that the Bulldogs tried onside kicks after all four of their first-half touchdowns. Standout two-way lineman Spencer Blackburn fought his way into the pile to rescue the first onside attempt, setting up Tutterrow's breathtaking scoring pass to Jones.
"The season didn't end how we wanted it to end, but we gave it our all," said Blackburn, acknowledging he has attracted the interest of several college football programs. "And (with that effort) that's how it ended."
Cashmere scored on drives of 61, 57, 50 and 64 yards the first four times the Bulldogs had the ball, sticking to the ground except for a 41-yard scoring pass over the middle from quarterback Casey Reuther to slot back Dylan Boyd for the fourth touchdown.
Rex Pittsinger finished with 130 yards on 26 carries, including touchdowns of 1 and 20 yards for Cashmere's first and last scores, respectively. Reuther scored the second and third touchdowns on 3- and 15-yard scrambles and amassed 95 yards on 14 carries along with two touchdown tosses on his only completions.
Reuther added a game-clinching 38-yard touchdown pass to Mason Elliott for a 35-14 advantage on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"We haven't played a team like this before this season," said Ames, referring to the Bulldogs' well-mixed use of power runs into the line along with nicely executed options by Reuther. The clever quarterback is the grandson of Western Washington University Hall of Famer Steve Richardson, a 1960s backfield star and former teammate of Ames.
"But this (facing such a difficult offense to defend) will help us in the future," Ames said, thinking of several talented underclassmen.
Not long after Meridian sophomore Dakota Jones returned a fumble 20 yards with 1:58 remaining for the game's final score - along with a 2-point conversion pass from Tutterrow to Kyle Linderman - the Trojans called time out three times in the final minute.
Meridian was desperately trying to tack on another touchdown because the Trojans, as Ames put it, "always play to the final gun."
Tutterrow was sacked six times and was constantly pressured, but managed to complete 11 of 31 passes for 147 yards in a game effort, including four for 56 yards to Chambers and three for 30 yards to Plagerman.
Tutterrow also caught in a 3-yard pass from Jones on a trick play, immediately before Jones' 4-yard run for what became in his final Meridian touchdown far too early to give the Trojans a good chance against a team as talented as Cashmere.
Pittsinger, Reuther and Boyd, all seniors, combined for 363 yards total offense for the Bulldogs, who will face Okanogan in the quarterfinals.
Junior running back Cody Bachman - displaying flashes of the talent Ames hopes can help Tutterrow build a another strong season next year - finished with 36 yards rushing in 6 carries.
Meridian 7 7 0 8-22
Cashmere 21 7 0 13- 41
Cashmere - Rex Pittsinger 1 run (Oscar Cantu kick)
Meridian - Latrez Jones 54 pass from Tanner Tutterrow (Alan Eyoub kick)
Cashmere - Casey Ruether 3 run (Cantu kick)
Cashmere - Ruether 15 run (Cantu kick)
Meridian - Jones 4 run (Eyoub kick)
Cashmere - Dylan Boyd 41 pass from Ruether (Cantu kick)
Cashmere - Mason Elliott 38 pass from Ruether (Cantu kick)
Cashmere - Pittsinger 20 run (kick failed)
Meridian - Dakota Jones 20 fumble return (Kyle Linderman pass from Tutterrow)
First downs 11 23
Rushes-yards 30-71 59-288
Comp-att-int 12-33-0 2-6-0
Passing yards 150 79
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-30 8-84
RUSHING - Meridian: Latrez Jones 10-31, Bryce Garcia 4-17, Cody Bachman 6-36, Tanner Tutterrow 10-(minus 13). Cashmere: Rex Pittsinger 27-130, Casey Ruether 14-95, Dylan Boyd 6-59, Mason Elliott 5-(minus 1), Oscar Cantu 2-10, Jacob James 2-4, Luke Simonson 2-(minus 8), Colton Colwell 1-(minus 1).
PASSING - Meridian: Tanner Tutterrow 11-31-147-0, Latrez Jones 1-1-3-0, Sam Chambers 0-1-0-0. Cashmere: Casey Ruether 2-6-79-0.
RECEIVING - Meridian: Sam Chambers 4-56, Jacob Plagerman 3-30, Latrez Jones 1-54, Tanner Tutterrow 1-3, Cody Bachman 1-7, Daniel Young 1-5, Bryce Garcia 1-(minus 5). Cashmere: Dylan Boyd 1-41, Mason Elliott 1-38.