PENDLETON — One Hundred has been a magic number for Pendleton’s Lathan Alger recently. The last time Alger came up short of the century mark for yards receiving — a stretch of five games — the calendar had just turned to September and his senior season was just beginning.
But all streaks inevitably end, as Alger’s did with a 69-yard performance on Thursday night in the Buckaroos’ victory over The Dalles Wahtonka.
“I think I came up a little short tonight,” he said after the game. “It’s always nice to get 100 yards but if it comes down to it, it's not all about me getting those big yards. It’s about the team playing together.”
His coach echoed Alger’s statement. Mitch Sanders said with the season winding down and the playoffs looming just out of sight, a team win is the most important part.
After catching two passes for scores last week in a win over Hood River Valley, Alger again contributed to the scoring on Friday. The wide out caught a screen pass from quarterback Connor Johnson and shot down the left side of the field for a 51-yard touchdown. The receiver broke three tackles while criss-crossing the field to the goal line.
“But when I get in some space, that’s a highlight for me if I can zig-zag my way through a defense.”
Alger dropped a few passes in the early quarters as rain dampened the field and the receivers’ gloves. One such drop was on a similar screen. The coach saw a missed opportunity.
“We could have run screens all night long like crazy,” Sanders said. “The screen game was definitely there tonight. We just went back to it because it was wide open earlier.”
Alger’s stat line for the game read three catches for 69 yards with that touchdown, and also one massive, molar-loosening block.
The big hit came on another screen play late in the game, this one drawn up for tight end Adam Futter. With Futter turning up field, Alger leveled a would-be tackler to clear a path.
The play netted only a handful of yards, but the block left quite the impression on the woozy defender.
And on Alger.
“Being a smaller wide receiver, you don’t really get a chance to come up with the cleanup block very often,” Alger said. “We ran the play and I came back and I just got big eyes. I was waiting for it. It just puts a big smile on your face ... I haven’t had one like that since my freshman year.”