KETCHUM - Three big plays in the second half carried the Commerce Tigers to a 33-6 District A6 victory Friday night over the Ketchum Warriors.
While having their consecutive scoreless quarters snapped at 20, coach Willie Ng's Tigers remained undefeated at 7-0 in the district and 8-0 on the season. The loss dropped coach Chad Burnham's Warriors to 4-3 in the district and 5-3 overall.
Commerce returns home Friday for the final regular season game at Tiger Field against the Quapaw Wildcats.
"We needed a game like this," Ng said. "They brought it to us and this was a reflection of how our kids prepared.
"We needed a wake-up call because we were getting too big for our pants," Ng said. "I liked the way they overcame the first half adversity and settled down and executed our game plan."
Ankle injuries to starting tailback Josh Pilkinton and Dusty Williams on the opening kickoff forced Ng and his coaching staff to alter their play calling.
Williams returned after having his ankle wrapped, but Pilkinton sat out the remainder of the game.
"Those two injuries changed our whole game plan," Ng said. "It also affected our intensity. We just weren't excited."
After stopping Ketchum on the opening possession, Commerce drove 40 yards on only three plays to grab the lead in the first three minutes of the game.
Quarterback Joey Bowling connected with Williams on passes of 20 and 16 yards to ignite the drive.
Junior tailback Ryan Nowlin culminated the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 9:18 left in the first quarter.
Zach Barnes missed the extra point wide left as the Tigers built a 6-0 lead.
Keeping Ketchum pinned deep in their own territory, the Tigers benefited from a 7-yard punt return by Nowlin to the Warriors 29-yard line early in the second quarter.
Barnes, lining up at the H-back position, took a handoff and raced straight down the middle of the field for a 28-yard touchdown run on the second play of the drive.
The two-point conversion run by Bowling was stuffed as Commerce held a 12-0 lead with 7:01 until halftime.
Ketchum mounted a 75-yard, five-play drive on their next possession that consumed most of the remaining time in the quarter.
On a fourth-and-2 call at the Commerce 30-yard line, the Tigers were flagged for pass interference which gave the Warriors a first-and-10 at the Commerce 15-yard line.
After quarterback Harrison Kay connected with fullback Jacob Miller on a 14-yard pass, Kay scored on a quarterback sneak with just 21 second before halftime.
The two-point conversion run by Kay was thwarted as the Warriors trailed 12-6 at intermission.
“We did way too much free lancing on defense,” Ng said. “We didn't play our responsibilities and it cost us. When we played our responsibilities, we did a good job, but we didn't do that consistently.”
Ketchum botched an onsides kick attempt to start the third quarter as Commerce set up shop at the Warriors 45-yard line.
Nowlin took an inside handoff and broke into the Ketchum secondary for a 45-yard touchdown run just 10 seconds into the quarter. Bryson Sullivan scored the two-point conversion run to create a 20-6 Commerce lead.
After neither team moved the ball during the remainder of the third quarter, the Tigers struck twice during the final 12 minutes.
Bowling connected with Sullivan on an 80-yard touchdown pass with 10:36 left in the game. Barnes kicked the extra point as the Tigers pulled away to a 27-6 margin.
The Bowling-to-Sullivan combo clicked again with 3:46 showing on the clock for a 65-yard touchdown pass. The PAT by Barnes was blocked which created a 33-6 cushion.
Before leaving the game with a twisted ankle in the fourth quarter, Nowlin led the Commerce ground game with 71 yards on 10 carries. Barnes added 38 yards on three carries.
Bowling connected on 6 of 10 passes for 217 yards and two TDs.
Dusty Williams led the Tigers receiving corps with three catches for 71 yards. Sullivan added two receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Commerce limited Ketchum to 186 total yards on offense. Kay led the Warriors ground game with 64 yards on 26 carries while Miller added 44 yards on 15 carries.
Kay hit 6 of 19 passes for 53 yards which included a 23-yard interception return by Commerce defensive back Mickey Morgan.
The game in figures
Commerce 33, Ketchum 6
Commerce 6 6 8 13 - 33
Ketchum 0 6 0 0 - 6
Com - Nowlin 4 run (kick failed), 9:18
Commerce - Barnes 28 run (run failed), 7:01
Ketchum - H. Kay 1 run (run failed), 0:21
Commerce - Nowlin 45 run (Sullivan run), 11:50
Commerce - Sullivan 80 pass from Bowling (Barnes kick), 10:36
Commerce - Sullivan 65 pass from Bowling (kick failed), 3:46
First downs 11 15
Rushes-yards 24-130 46-133
Passing yards 217 53
Return yards 84 7
Com-att-int 6-10-0 6-19-1
Punts-avg 2-28.5 4-25.5
Fumbles-lost 5-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-100 7-65
Rushing - Commerce, Nowlin 10-71, Barnes 3-38, Sullivan 6-37, Morgan 1-0, Bowling 4-(-16); Ketchum, H. Kay 26-64, Miller 15-44, Johnson 3-16, Frost 1-5, Hemphill 2-5, B. Williams 1-(-1).
Passing - Commerce, Bowling 6-10-0-217; Ketchum, H. Kay 6-19-1-53.
Receiving - Commerce, D. Williams 3-71, Sullivan 2-145, Manning 1-1; Ketchum, Miller 1-14, Brown 1-12, Johnson 1-9, Witt 1-7, Frost 1-6, B. Williams 1-5.