Linton's Miners could have been staring disaster in the face after just a few seconds of Friday night's Class A high school regional football game at West Washington.
The Miners fumbled the opening kickoff, the host Senators got a quick first down, and the Miners were backed up inside their own 30-yard line.
But the Linton defense stiffened -- definitely a precursor of things to come -- and the visitors rolled to a 28-0 victory, setting up a semistate revenge opportunity at Linton next week against Indianapolis Scecina.
West Washington was at the Linton 25-yard line with a third-and-6 play, but thanks to their own penalty and a ferocious pass rush by Linton's Jackson Bohnert, it became fourth-and-22 and the Senators wound up punting.
"That was huge," coach Steve Weber said after the game when asked about the defensive stop.
Koye Kaiser was nailed on the punt return, a helmet-to-helmet hit, but definitely was unfazed. Two plays later the Miner running back unveiled a spectacular spin move to get through the line and outran the defense for a scoring play. The Miners were on their way.
"I should have fair-caught [the punt]; that was dumb on my part," Kaiser said after a 122-yard rushing performance.
Linton scored again late in the first quarter when quarterback Austin Karazsia lofted a ball to the corner of the end zone with Cole Bradbury and a West Washington defender both under it. Bradbury got a hand on the ball, tipped it back up in the air and caught it while landing on his back on top of the defender in the end zone.
"I don't know how I caught it," he said after the game. "I saw the ball in the air and I said 'Holy cow!' and it wound up in my arms."
Linton had a 74-yard, eight-play scoring drive early in the second quarter, Karazsia hitting Bradbury for 15 yards and Zane Hayden for 19 -- helped by a loud crackback block by Kaiser -- before Bradbury scored on a reverse.
The Miners also had a long drive at the end of the half but had used all their timeouts and ran out of time. Bradbury was caught for a 16-yard loss on a pass play to end the half, which made his 11-catch, 105-yard outing a little less statistically impressive.
"It was a screen, and I was just trying to make a big play [as the time ran out]," he said after the game. The 11 catches were "definitely a career high," he added. "I think my best was something like eight."
West Washington had just three first-half first downs and eight for the game, two of those in the third quarter because of Linton penalties.
"We had to change some things [defensively] right before game time," Weber noted afterward, pointing to the fill-in jobs done by Hayden at cornerback and Paul Goodman at outside linebacker. "The defense was just outstanding ... depth is usually a problem [for a Class A team] but everybody stepped up."
"We've really stepped it up [defensively] since the Sullivan game [an offensive shootout the second week of the season]," said Bohnert, a defensive end and offensive tackle. "It's just hard work. We work together, we do everything together."
"We knew [the Senators] were a solid offense, probably the best we've faced all year," added Bradbury, who had a long interception return nullified by one of those third-quarter penalties. "We came out prepared, and that really showed on the scoreboard."
Weber also pointed to the work of the Linton offensive line.
"They were unbelievable," the coach said, "with holes and with the time Austin had to throw the ball. We had some [offensive] letdowns, but the consistent part was the line."
"I'm so proud of these guys; they work so hard," Kaiser added. "The line does awesome, the wide receivers, special teams ... but we still have to get better. We have to play our best game next week."
"We're just excited to keep playing," Weber concluded.
Linton 28, West Washington 0
Linton 14 7 0 7 -- 28
West Washington 0 0 0 0 -- 0
L -- Koye Kaiser 56 run (Dyllanne Deischer kick), 9:06 1st
L -- Cole Bradbury 30 pass from Austin Karazsia (Deischer kick), 1:47 1st
L -- Bradbury 8 run (Deischer kick), 9:30 2nd
L -- Kaiser 5 run (Deischer kick), 10:04 4th
First downs 24 8
Rushes-yards 29-169 22-45
Passing yards 248 111
Comp-Att-Int 25-35-1 10-22-0
Return yards 5 13
Punts-avg 2-56 6-32.8
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 7-58 5-59
Rushing: Linton -- Kaiser 14-122, Austin Hale 8-22, Bradbury 1-8, Karazsia 1-6, Abram Neff 1-6, Zane Hayden 3-4, Pierce Jackson 1-1. West Washington -- Chad Thompson 7-23, Tyler Dunn 6-14, Jared Maudlin 2-6, Cody Mauldin 5-4, Sean Keller 2-minus 2.
Passing: Linton -- Karazsia 25-35-1, 248 yards. West Washington -- C.Mauldin 10-22-0, 111.
Receiving: Linton -- Bradbury 11-105, Hayden 5-52, Beau Eaton 5-50, Kaiser 2-22, Dane Rupska 1-11, Hale 1-8. West Washington -- Matt Brackney 4-44, Thompson 4-33, Tyler Holliday 2-34.
Next -- Linton (13-0) hosts Indianapolis Scecina next Friday in the Class A southern semistate. West Washington finished 9-4.