LONGVIEW, Wash. - Astoria left Longview Memorial Stadium Friday with a win. R.A. Long stashed its helmets and shoulder pads, then sauntered into the night with a clear image of the team it can be.

The second-ranked, defending Class 4A champion Fishermen converted a pair of short-yardage situations late in the fourth quarter, busting a long touchdown run on the second conversion to secure a 34-22 nonleague football victory.

All-state fullback Dane Lund's 41-yard touchdown run with 2:10 left in the game sealed the deal. It was also the only peep heard from Astoria over the final 15 minutes of the game, a stretch when the Lumberjacks roared.

"They weren't as tough as they were last year," RAL senior linebacker Dylan Hopkins said of the Fishermen, who thumped the Jacks 52-14 in 2008 during their undefeated run to the state title. "They're a different team. So are we."

R.A. Long was trailing 27-3 - and hadn't gained more than eight yards on a play from scrimmage - with 5:39 left in the third quarter when, without warning or omen, it woke its inner beast. Eleven minutes, 138 yards, a sack, a blocked punt, a William Yordy touchdown run and a luscious Yordy-to-J-Nusbaum touchdown pass later, it was 27-22.

"Last season, when we got behind, we gave up," said RAL senior running back Thomas McCall, who bulled for a game-high 94 yards rushing on 20 carries. "We had heart tonight. We kept pushing. We showed we won't roll over."

Well, at least not two halves in a row.

The first half was a spot-on impersonation of a circus pooch, marred by a pair of turnovers, countless missed tackles, a crushing delay-of-game penalty on the doorstep of the goal line, and five botched snaps by R.A. Long (2-1).

Astoria (3-0) capitalized on the host's ineptitude by scoring its first two touchdowns on drives of 48 and 20 yards. A third came when quarterback Ian Erickson somehow escaped a sack, squirted away from two RAL defenders and bolted 17 yards for a TD.

"In the first half, we were just playing," Hopkins said. "In the second half, we were playing for a cause. We were playing for respect. I hope there were some Monarchs in the crowd for the second half."

The second-half surge didn't sweep away the detritus of the Jacks' execrable first-half performance. But it put the gory details in teachable context.

"If we had just played a 'C' in the first half, instead of an 'F' ..." said RAL head coach Erik Bertram, shaking his head. "The second half was an 'A,' but an 'A' and an 'F' is still a 'C.' It's a heck of a learning tool."

In the first half, Astoria rushed for 122 of its 182 yards of offense. Jacob Davis, who rotated with Erickson at quarterback every other series, completed 5-of-8 passes for 64 yards. The Fishermen got positive yardage on every rushing attempt. They had three tackles-for-loss and spooked Yordy to the point that he sailed every pass thrown beyond the flat, and hit halftime just 3-for-13 for 19 yards and two picks.

In the second half? Astoria had 71 yards rushing - 41 coming on Lund's run, tainted by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when the fullback pumped the ball over his head as he coasted the final 10 yards.

The Jacks dumped Astoria ball carriers for losses on five of their 17 second-half runs. Josh Sorenson crashed through the Fishermen line to block a punt, and Hopkins scooped it up and stepped into the end zone. Yordy had completions of 19, 20 and 21 yards before firing a heavenly 41-yard dart to a streaking, wide-open Nusbaum for a touchdown on fourth-and-eight.

And the Jacks outgained Astoria 171-137.

"If the second half had been the game," Hopkins said, "we'd have beat 'em. But we lost this in the first half."

There was no trash to Hopkins' talk. The Jacks left the Stadium Friday knowing that they cannot afford to play flat, tentative or sloppy against quality foes and expect success.

"There are no good losses or moral victories," Bertram said. "But when you come out, hand someone like Astoria two possessions in your own territory and then you still have a shot at the end? It's nice to know that you have the physicality, speed and athleticism to hang with a team that good and have spurts where you outplay them."

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