TUMWATER — Mitch Stone was hardly alone on the field, but he turned it into his personal playground during the second half Friday night at Tumwater Stadium.
The Black Hills High School senior intercepted a pass and scored two touchdowns after halftime, the second of which capped a 24-17 comeback win over River Ridge in the 2A Evergreen Conference opener for both teams.
Stone finished with three touchdowns and carried 23 times for 168 yards to lead Black Hills (3-2 overall, 1-0 EvCo).
“He really leads us,” Black Hills coach Dominic Yarrington said. “He’s a silent leader, and he does everything right.”
Trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, the Wolves scored 14 consecutive points to take the lead, then withstood a flurry of River Ridge passes near the goal line.
“We played young,” River Ridge coach Steve Schultz said. “We played our age. We had opportunities there to make plays, right there at the end.”
The Hawks (3-2, 0-1) scored first after they used 13 plays and more than 5 minutes to march 87 yards. A 24-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Kobe Key to his brother, junior Michael Key, and a personal foul on Black Hills helped keep the drive moving before Michael’s 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Jayden Troy’s 62-yard strike to sophomore receiver Mark Melendres had Black Hills in business at the River Ridge 13 early in the second quarter. The Hawks settled for a 27-yard Luke Taylor field goal after Melendres didn’t turn around to see Troy’s well-thrown ball on a fade route to the back left corner of the end zone.
River Ridge took advantage of a short field at the Wolves’ 29 after a Black Hills punt. Junior running back Chris Leiba needed one play to cover the distance, turning the left corner and sailing untouched into the end zone to bump the Hawks’ lead to 14-3.
An 18-yard Troy pass to junior wideout Alex Romero set up Stone’s 5-yard touchdown run with 2:23 left to pull the Wolves within 14-10.
River Ridge dodged a bullet in the final seconds of the first half after a Kobe Key fumble at his own 15 was recovered by Black Hills’ TJ Borden. The Wolves moved to the 3, but a fumble and a River Ridge penalty on a field-goal try — that didn’t net a first down — resulted in a fourth-down pass that fell incomplete.
The Hawks’ lead grew to 17-10 on a 27-yard field goal by Chris Behnke early in the third quarter.
It wouldn’t last. The next sequence of plays starred Stone, starting with his interception of a Kobe Key pass at the Black Hills 37.
Defensive back Stone turned into running back Stone on the Wolves’ next play, an 11-yard gainer. Then, aided by solid downfield blocks by Tyler Gatterman and other Black Hills teammates, Stone sprinted
51 yards for a touchdown.
After the teams traded promising but fruitless possessions, Troy found senior Nick Knittle on passes of 14 and 16 yards, and Stone lugged the ball 20 yards to the River Ridge 2. Stone pranced in from there to give Black Hills the lead.
A Josh Boyd interception of Kobe Key on a fourth-down desperation heave at 2:56 appeared to seal the deal, but the Hawks forced the Wolves to punt and took over on the Black Hills 25 with 55 seconds to play.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on a fourth-down incompletion gave the Hawks new life at the 15 with 33 seconds left. Three consecutive Kobe Key passes fell incomplete under a heavy Black Hills rush before a fourth-and-10 pass just missed at the goal line as the Wolves celebrated.