Comeback Bonney Lake Panthers in football playoffs

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.comNovember 1, 2013 

The Bonney Lake High School football team overcame a 14-0 deficit to beat Auburn Mountainview 35-28 on Thursday, Oct. 31, at Auburn Memorial Stadium. The win was the Panthers' 4th in a row after starting their season 0-5. They can tie for the 3A SPSL title if Lakes beats Peninsula on Friday, Nov. 1.

TACOMANEWSTRIBUNE

Even when the Bonney Lake High School football team makes mistakes, things seem to work out these days.

Robert Combs doesn’t know why that is, but he is enjoying how special it has made the Panthers’ second half of the season.

Combs scored the tying touchdown from 24 yards out on a botched offensive play in the fourth quarter, then put Bonney Lake ahead to stay the next possession as the holder on a failed field goal attempt.

The snap was high, but Combs snagged it and looked for open space. He found a hole for a 15-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-13 play that led to the Panthers’ 35-28 3A South Puget Sound League victory over Auburn Mountainview on Thursday night in Auburn. It was Bonney Lake’s fourth win in a row.

This are the same Panthers (4-5 overall; 4-1 3A SPSL) who started the season 0-5 and allowed teams to average more than 43 points a game. Now they have secured a playoff berth and can possibly tie for the league championship.

“I said Game 6 that we were going to turn a new leaf and that we had everything to prove,” Combs said. “We love the naysayers. We work for them.”

Bonney Lake will tie for the league crown if Lakes beats Peninsula on Friday, but it would likely earn the third seed after the tiebreaker process. The Panthers earn the No. 2 seed if Peninsula wins.

Bonney Lake got a last-second field goal from Tyler John to beat Lakes, 24-21, last week.

Auburn Mountainview made this one close. After Combs’ go-ahead TD, the Lions went 71 yards down to Bonney Lake’s 7 with 50 seconds left, trailing by seven.

Sophomore quarterback Gresch Jensen was sacked at the 13 on third down and had his next pass spiked at the line of scrimmage by Brandon Kilstrom for a turnover on downs. Jensen finished 29 of 45 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

“We talked about drawing something up at the end, but we said, ‘You know what? We’ve lived and died with these kids,’ ” said Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh. “We’ve lived and died with them knowing what to do, and it’s been all about those kids stepping up and making plays when they’ve needed to. It was nothing fancy, just kids that stepped up and make plays it the end.”

None was bigger at making plays than Combs. He ran for 100 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns and even completed a 48-yard pass at quarterback. He’s the do-everything man for the Panthers, whether it’s catching passes, lining up in the backfield as the quarterback or running back, or causing havoc on kick returns.

And as Auburn Mountainview found out, he’s also pretty productive as a holder on field goal attempts.

“I’m happy he’s on our team,” Silbaugh said. “There’s a lot of great talent in our state, but I’ll tell you, the stuff he does, football-wise, he’s got to be one of the best players in the state. Hands down, he’s probably the best football player in our league.”

Despite not winning any non-conference games and looking like a team destined for the SPSL cellar, Combs will now get to show his athletic ability in the playoffs.

“We are just a team that never loses hope,” Combs said. “We never give up. I think we have proved that every single game.”

SPSL SOUTH

Todd Beamer 36, at Bethel 17: Brody Martinez had a big night with two long touchdown runs and a 93-yard kickoff return for a score late in the first quarter, and the Titans beat the Braves at Art Crate Field. Martinez finished with 159 rushing yards on 15 carries.

NARROWS 3A

At North Thurston 41, Mount Tahoma 8: The Rams tallied three touchdowns in the first 73 seconds of the game, started by Hayden Maliska’s 65-yard scoring run on the game’s first play, to beat the Thunderbirds at South Sound Stadium.

NON-LEAGUE

At Emerald Ridge 47, Mount Rainier 17: The Jaguars forced three Rams turnovers in the first 14 minutes, building a big lead en route to a 4A SPSL crossover victory at Sparks Stadium. Ryan Knowlton’s 2-yard touchdown run off a bootleg on third-and-goal gave the Jaguars a 20-3 lead with 9:38 remaining in the first half.

The News Tribune staff contributed to this report. TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com @Cotterill44

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