Golden Eagles senior defensive standout Christian Rodriguez seemed to say it best in a throng of ecstatic players, coaches and fans under Saturday night lights.
“Ferndale football is back!!!” he shouted, complete with three exclamation points.
The Golden Eagles, indeed, didn’t resemble anything close to last year’s 3-6 team, in either spirit or performance, in the wake of Ferndale’s pulse-pounding 35-34 overtime non-league win over Kamiakin on Saturday, Sept. 5, before a large, enthralled crowd.
Fittingly, the game went down to the final play in the Kansas Tie-breaker, which starts on the 25-yard line for both teams.
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After Ferndale scored on Justice Powell’s 3-yard, tackle-breaking burst and Sam Boulos’ conversion kick, Kamiakin took advantage of a fourth-down roughing the passer penalty to stay alive. The Braves scored on an 8-yard run by Jethro Questad, then went for a game-winning two-point conversion.
Ferndale junior defensive back Sky Freeman, however, made sure that Kamiakin’s Jace Navejas never had the chance to get in the end zone.
“He caught the ball short of the end zone (on a roll-out scramble by Kamiakin quarterback Zach Borisch) and I kept him out,” said an exultant Freeman before joining one of the wildest Ferndale celebrations since the state title season a decade ago.
Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich was gratified to see how many athletes showed the effects of offseason work and dedication devoted to returning Ferndale’s football prestige.
“Just a phenomenal effort by our guys,” said Plenkovich. “It really was a total team win. We battled the kind of adversity we had never overcome.”
Senior veteran Austin Honeycutt called the team’s effort “just amazing, definitely the best feeling I’ve had here.”
The three-hour-plus game produced 821 total yards — 427 by Ferndale and 394 by Kamiakin. The Braves, however, used only three rushers, combining for 215 yards, while the Golden Eagles employed five who made significant contributions.
“We just have so many athletes,” said sophomore James Hinson, who certainly seemed like one of the best while providing nearly error-free play after entering near the end of the first quarter and playing the rest of the game.
All four of Ferndale’s touchdowns in regulation came in response to go-ahead scores by Kamiakin. The most exciting was an 80-yard run by Ben Broselle off a fake, aided by a key block by 305-pound lineman Chris Hernandez, for a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Broselle finished with 150 yards on eight carries.
On Hinson’s first series, Hinson threw a 51-yard scoring pass to junior Jacob Kildall, who broke free of a tackler to tie the game 7-7. And when Kamiakin again took the lead, Taylor Bellefeuille answered with a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter for a 14-14 tie and a 2-yard go-ahead score in the third.
Junior tight end Winterhawk Leighton, who made several key tackles, kept a 76-yard, 16-play drive alive in the third quarter when he caught an 11-yard pass from Hinson on third-and-1 from Ferndale’s own 44. Kildall’s diving 13-yard catch at the 5 helped set up the touchdown from Bellefeuille for the 21-14 advantage.
Kamiakin tied the game at 28 with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter with two nifty plays -- a 53-yard pass from Borisch to Gavin Crow and a 34-yard bomb from Borisch to Navejas.
Ferndale ran 76 plays as Honeycutt finished with 73 yards on 18 carries, helping produce the five touchdowns in a clutch way.
“The team made it easy for me to come in and play,” said Hinson. “I had a whole lot of help. As for Broselle, he’s just amazing and our defense did so much.”
Justice Powell helped key Ferndale’s defense with two interceptions.
Ferndale 35, Kamiakin 34 (OT)
Kam -- Mugtaba Kori 5 pass from Zach Borisch (Garrett Paxton kick)
Fern -- Jacob Kildall 51 pass from James Hinson (Sam Boulos kick)
Kam -- Jethro Questad 72 run (Paxton kick)
Fern -- Taylor Bellefeuille 5 run (Boulos kick)
Fern -- Bellefeuille 2 run (Boulos kick)
Kam -- Questad 4 pass from Borisch (Paxton kick)
Fern -- Ben Broselle 80 run (Boulos kick)
Kam -- Jace Navejas 34 pass from Borisch (Paxton kick)
Fern -- Justice Powell 3 run (Boulos kick)
Kam -- Questad 8 run (pass failed)
RUSHING -- Kamiakin: Jethro Questad 15-167, Zach Borisch 17-40, Gavin Crow 2-8. Ferndale: Ben Broselle 8-150, Austin Honeycutt 18-73, Justice Powell 14-36, Taylor Bellefeuille 15-50, Sky Freeman 2-2, James Hinson 5-13, Kyler Schemstad 2-(minus 5).
PASSING -- Kamiakin: 12-26-2-179. Ferndale: James Hinson 6-11-0-97, Sky Freeman 1-1-11, Kyler Schemstad 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING -- Kamiakin: Jace Navejas 2-45, Mugtabi Kori 2-13, Darreon Moore 2-9, Jethro Questad 2-12, Gavin Crow 2-62, Benson Smith 1-11, Isaiah Brimmer 1-27. Ferndale: Jacob Kildall 2-64, Ben Broselle 1-11, Jackson King 1-6, Winterhawk Leighton 1-11, Justice Powell 1-5, James Hinson 1-11.