The Graham-Kapowsin Eagles got a small taste Thursday night of what life is going to be like down the final stretch of the season – every team is out to give them their best shot.
Fourth-ranked Graham-Kapowsin scored on its final possession and made a late defensive stand to hold on and defeat Puyallup, 34-33, in a Class 4A SPSL South shootout at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“We have a target on our back ... everybody is hunting for us,” said senior running back Teague James, who rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns. “We have to play smart, not do stupid stuff. Just keep working.”
G-K’s 7-0 overall mark is the best start in school history. The Eagles were 8-1 last season but lost an early game to Federal Way.
“We’re excited,” G-K coach Eric Kurle said of the historic start. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do. We want to be an elite team.”
The Eagles (6-0 SPSL South) got clutch performances on both sides of the ball in the final six minutes. Puyallup took a 33-28 lead on Brendan Illies’ 5-yard TD pass to Brady Winter with less than six minutes left, but the G-K defense stepped up to snuff out the two-point conversion attempt, batting down Illies’ pass at the line.
“Offensively, they’re as good as anybody around,” Kurle said of the Vikings. “ I was scared about this game more than any of them.”
But the Eagles calmly responded, going 76 yards in seven plays, eventually getting a 32-yard touchdown run from Shannon Edwards, his second of the game.
“(We had to) just hold on to the ball and do not fumble — just pound it down their throats,” James said.
Puyallup stopped Dylan Campbell on a reverse for the two-point conversion to keep the deficit at one. The Vikings got the ball back with 1:59 left on their own 13-yard line, but the Eagles’ defense came up with a sack and forced Illies into an intentional-grounding penalty, eventually getting the Vikings to turn it over on downs.
“I usually don’t play defense, and I was out there,” James said with a laugh.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle with James scoring two touchdowns, the second a 16-yard run with 1:18 left, giving the Eagles a 21-20 lead at halftime.
Quarterback Trevor Asbjorsen tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Connor McLeod midway through the third quarter that gave G-K a 28-27 lead. Halfback Michael Fuller had three rushing touchdowns for Puyallup (4-3, 3-3).
Tahoma 26, at Kentwood 14: And now there is one team alone atop the SPSL North standings – Auburn Riverside – thanks to the Bears’ victory.
The Shane Nelson-to-DeShon Williams combination worked twice for touchdowns for Tahoma, including a 33-yard pass on the final play of the first half that put Tahoma up 14-7 at French Field.
Nelson’s 14-yard scoring strike to Williams gave Tahoma a 26-14 lead with just under six minutes remaining.
The Conquerors lost two consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 2008.
Emerald Ridge 40, at Beamer 38: Cody Anderson’s touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter put the Jaguars up 40-31 – and Emerald Ridge went on to beat the Titans at Memorial Stadium in Federal way for its first win of the season.
Gig Harbor won 10 events, and crushed host Stadium, 119-67, to repeat as the 4A Narrows League dual-meet champion.
And in an all-Lacey showdown, North Thurston won every event but diving, and ran away from Timberline, 130-50, to win the 3A Narrows title.Staff writer Todd Milles contributed to this report.