Selah High football finishes strong behind offensive line, running game

If the old saying is true — “it’s not how you start but how you finish” — then the Selah High football should have plenty of reasons to celebrate this fall.

After starting 1-3, the Vikings rolled off four straight victories, taking down East Valley, Ephrata, Grandview and Rogers in succession. And even though they dropped their season finale to league champion Prosser in overtime, the Viks proved that they were among the top teams in the CWAC this fall.

“I think it took a few games for us to figure out what type of team we were going to be,” said head coach Scott Ditter, whose team finished 5-4 overall (3-3 league). “Our offensive line was strong all year, and once our running game started to come around, we were able to control things a little better.”

Selah racked up more than 1,000 rushing yards in its final three games, including outputs of 400-plus against Grandview and Rogers, and 240 against Prosser. And while senior running back Ethan Garza got credit for a big chunk of those yards, the O-line was instrumental in helping the Viks reach that level. 

“We just hung it all on their shoulders,” Ditter said of the group that landed four spots on the all-conference squad. “Our run production was very high over the final five games, and that helped us develop some consistency that we were lacking in the first four. We owe a lot of that success to our O-line.”

Senior tackle Michael Ray and senior guard Titan Nelson earned first-team all-CWAC honors, while senior guard Jerry Schmidt and sophomore center David Tormala received honorable mention.

Garza was an all-league second team selection at running back — despite being the CWAC’s only 1,000-yard rusher — and also earned a first-team spot as an outside linebacker. Senior wide receiver Jack Kuhn and senior cornerback Connor Dailey (also the starting quarterback) joined Ray and Nelson on the first team.

Ray received a second-team nod as a defensive lineman, while senior inside linebacker Kyle Nichols and junior punter Clayton Westfall joined him on the second team. Seniors Kamden Bigby (OLB), Anrrul Torres (cornerback) and Kuhn (safety) received honorable mention.

The Vikings running game provided the statistical highlights this season, but Ditter said it was the defense that really shined. Selah allowed an average of just 12.7 points per game and didn’t surrender more than 20 points until the season finale against Prosser (a 32-26 loss).

Ditter pointed to his team’s third-down efficiency and turnovers (takeaways, fourth-down stops, three-and-outs) as being crucial to keeping them in games.

“Defensively, that’s the best we have done in a long time,” the coach said, adding that the Viks allowed just three points in the first quarter all season. “I will take that any year.”

Ditter added that he was proud of his entire team — including 27 seniors — who had to overcome seemingly endless challenges to remain competitive. They missed the 2020 fall season due to COVID and then had their offseason and preseason training regimens cut short again this year. 

Being able to overcome all of that adversity and still posting a winning record gives Ditter and his staff reason to celebrate.

“These guys all worked hard and they really came together as the year progressed,” he said. “But our seniors deserve a great deal of the credit. I hope they feel good about what they accomplished because they did a great job. We’re all very proud of them and thankful we had the opportunity to coach them over these past four years.”

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