LACEY — Chris Leiba is a finesse player, lighting quick with speed to burn.
But that doesn’t mean the River Ridge junior shies away from contact. He has no problem putting his head down and grinding out yards between the tackles.
Facing a key fourth-and-goal from the 1, Leiba showed just how true that was.
His short touchdown run early in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning points as the Hawks rallied from an early deficit to knock off Centralia, 17-13, in a 2A Evergreen Conference game Thursday at South Sound Stadium.
“Last week’s loss motivated us,” Leiba said of River Ridge’s 24-17 setback against Black Hills. “We needed to come out here on our home turf and get a win.”
Leiba was one of three Hawks to pick off Centralia quarterback Joe Blaser – the biggest coming from Michael Key in the end zone with 2 minutes to play that sealed the Hawks’ victory.
Blaser directed Centralia’s option attack to near perfection early, helping the Tigers to a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
With the exception of its final drive, Centralia failed to find much offense in the second half thanks to a stingy Hawks defense.
“They really didn’t do anything that different. It was the same plays every time,” Leiba said. “We just had to step up on defense.”
River Ridge responded by scoring the game’s final 17 points to improve its record to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in EvCo.
Centralia (2-4, 0-2) got 99 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown
from Jacob Monohon, and 97 yards on 25 carries and a score from Jovany Almanza.
Leiba’s interception on the third play of the second half set up the Hawks at the Tigers’ 14.
Three plays later Christopher Behnke drilled a 30-yard field goal to trim Centralia’s advantage to 13-10.
Aside from their opening possession, which ended when the Hawks turned the ball over on downs at the Centralia 6, they were sluggish on offense for the majority of the first half before rallying in the final 2 minutes to trim the Tigers’ lead to 13-7 at halftime.
Trailing by two scores, River Ridge took over at midfield following a short Centralia punt with less than 2 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
A scramble by Kobe Key resulted in a 15-yard gain before the sophomore quarterback hit Leiba for a 19-yard completion.
On the next play, Key connected with Dejuan Frye on a 15-yard scoring strike.
“Scoring right before half was huge,” Leiba said. “We practice that 2-minute offense every day in practice. We needed that score.”
Centralia scored on two of its first three series, getting a 3-yard touchdown run from Almanza in the first quarter and a 24-yard TD run from Monohon with 6 minutes left in the first half.
Frye also added an interception for the Hawks, who did not have a turnover. Key finished 8-for-18 for 85 yards.
Montesano 32, Rochester 31: Jacob Sampair ran in for the game-winning 2-point conversion on Montesano's final touchdown to secure the Bulldogs' win at Stewart Field in Aberdeen and hand the Warriors their first loss in 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen action.
Rochester quarterback Tyler Gedney threw for 154 yards on 14 of 23 completions and three touchdowns. Tyler Yarber, the 1A SWW Evergreen's leading rusher, finished with 78 yards on 23 carries and also had a halfback pass for a touchdown.
Sampair finished with 107 yards rushing on 19 carries and also caught two touchdowns. Montesano had 251 yards rushing.