Considering the number of penalties, mistakes and bad-luck plays to go against Graham-Kapowsin on Friday night, it would have been easy for it to push its winless streak against Bethel to seven games.
“We had chances to give up and be down on ourselves, and in the past our kids would have,” Eagles coach Eric Kurle said. “But they played hard and made big plays when they needed to.”
Graham-Kapowsin earned a 35-28 victory against Bethel – its first win in school history.
The victory also allows the Eagles to retain sole possession of second place in the 4A SPSL South. But to do so, the team had to overcome 15 penalties (10 in the second half) and a late onside kick that Bethel recovered with a chance to tie with about four and a half minutes left to play.
Bethel cut Graham-Kapowsin’s lead to a touchdown with Connor Reopelle’s 31-yard scoring pass to Blake Schwartz with 4:46 left.
Braves kicker Ryan Smolko sent the ensuing kickoff high along the sideline, and it bounced at the Eagles’ 23. It appeared the ball was headed straight to the Bethel sideline for a penalty. Instead, it died right there and Jeremiah Vasquez recovered to give the ball back to Bethel with a chance to tie.
Instead of folding like Kurle said he had witnessed many times in the past, the Eagles caught a break when Bethel fumbled on a handoff two plays later. G-K recovered and held on for the win.
“We went over and over again in practice trying to learn how to beat these guys,” said Eagles running back Teague James. “We went out tonight and just did our thing.”
James rushed for a game-high 166 yards on 20 carries, including 58 on one play.
Graham-Kapowsin led 21-7 at halftime before Bethel marched down the field on its first two possessions of the second half to tie it up and take all the momentum.
James helped the Eagles take it back. He took a pitch right, found room on the edge and broke three tackles on his way into the end zone from 58 yards out to regain the lead for Graham-Kapowsin late in the third quarter.
“He just got a great burst and used his speed to get to the edge,” Kurle said. “That was a huge play for us.”
It gave the momentum back to the Eagles after they had it throughout the first half. Graham-Kapowsin scored 21 straight points in the first half after Bethel scored early. Dylan Campbell intercepted Reopelle’s pass in the second quarter and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead.
Bethel marched down to the Eagles’ 5 with 16 seconds left in the half, but Reopelle’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Connor McLeod.
“We were down in the red zone and didn’t get points on three different occasions,” said Bethel coach Gavin Kralik. “We lost the turnover battle and that was the difference in this game.”
Bethel drops to 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the 4A SPSL South, while Graham-Kapowsin improved to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in league.