Omak holds off late rally by Newport for 33-28 win in crossover play-in state game; Kessler Fjellman racks up 198 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns for Pioneers

OMAK – Win and you’ve punched your ticket to this year’s WIAA 1A State Tournament, lose and its season over, turn in your pads.

The pioneers seized the moment and came up big when it counted as they earned a spot in the elusive WIAA 1A state tournament after beating Newport 33-28 on Friday (Nov. 5) at the Pioneers home field.

“It is a great feeling because you watch your kids work so hard and fight for everything, especially after having a tough spring season (1-3) to come back and win the league and make state playoffs is a true testament to our team's heart and desire,” said Nick Sackman, head coach for Omak.

Omak took care of business during the regular season by going undefeated in league play (4-0) and winning the Caribou Trail League Championship outright after beating Cascade 41-14 on Oct. 28 to give them a home game for the crossover game.

A crossover game is where the top four teams from one district play the top four teams from another district. In this case, Omak, the #1 seed from District 6 would host Newport #4 seed from the Northeast 1A League in district 7.

Newport would be the first to score as Bear Smith scored a 26-yard touchdown run giving the Grizzles a 7-0 lead at the 7:30 mark in the first quarter, but Omak would strike back as Kessler Fjellman (Colville tribal member) of Omak would get loose for a 51-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

The Pioneers would take a 19-14 lead into halftime of a very chippy contest.

Fjellman would strike again with a 33-yard touchdown run giving Omak a 26-14 lead. Newport would battle back but costly penalties held them back from scoring and moving the ball as the Pioneers would hold on for a five-point win.

“We played very good on offense scoring on 5 of our 6 possessions. They really tried to grind out every drive as we only had 3 possessions each half,” said Sackman.

“Defensively we were able to put them in a lot of 4th down situations but just could not make the critical short down stops we needed. I was super proud of how our defense continued to play with toughness and attitude throughout.  

“Offensively we were really clicking in the running game. Fjellman went for 198 and Sackman added another 154. They were both dynamic and elusive the whole game and really put constant pressure on Newport’s defense. Our O-line was able to continually get our backs to the second level. I was really happy with our team's ability to play through adversity and get the win.”

The following week, Omak played against Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) in Spokane where they lost 42-0 Friday (Nov. 12) in the first round of the WIAA 1A state tournament. The Pioneers end the year with a 7-2 overall record, a Caribou Trail League Championship (4-0), and another state appearance.

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