The Gig Harbor Tides thought they could bait Tahoma star quarterback Shane Nelson into ill-advised passes.
And they were right.
Nelson, the SPSL North’s leading passer, threw three first-half interceptions, and the Tides cashed in on the Bears’ miscues in earning a 56-14 Class 4A district victory at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy.
In all, Tahoma committed seven turnovers, prompting coach Tony Davis to proclaim, “unfortunately we played our worst football tonight, and you can’t do that in the playoffs.”
Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler admitted his defense had a specific strategy against the Tahoma offense, and it worked.
“We really tried to take away the deep ball,” Chantler said. “They've got two really good wideouts, and a really good quarterback. We knew if we could stay over the top, and force them to throw underneath, we might be in positions in coverage where we can force some turnovers.”
Gig Harbor quarterback Conor Scanlan finished eight of 14 passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns, also adding 10 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Reese Carslon, after missing a stretch of games with a hand injury, had five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Federal Way 37, at Edmonds-Woodway 20: Big plays by Chico McClatcher and Keenan Curran helped the Eagles (8-2) pull away from the Warriors (8-2) at Edmonds Stadium.
McClatcher scored on an 84-yard kickoff return and setup another TD with 58-yard punt return to help Federal Way take a 21-14 lead at the half. In the second quarter, Curran took over.
Curran scored on runs of 41 and 38 yards – the second coming with 1:51 left in the game to seal it for the Eagles.
At Bothell 54, Puyallup 14: The 10th-ranked Cougars cashed in on two turnovers, including a snap over the punter’s head that led to a safety, to take a 19-0 lead in the first quarter and cruise to a win at Pop Keeney Stadium.
Bothell went up 5-0 on the safety. Then on the Vikings’ kickoff, Sam McPherson returned it 69 yards for a score, and the Cougars had a 12-0 lead at the 6:20 mark.
A Puyallup fumble then led Cameron Gale’s 23-yard touchdown to Damani St. John-Watkins on a double pass, giving Bothell a 19-0 lead with three minutes to go in the first quarter.
Eastlake 52, at Kentwood 7: Quarterback Richard “Blue” Thomas felt right at home at French Field, leading the Wolves (8-2) to a big victory with three first-half touchdown passes.
Kentwood, the top seed out of the SPSL North, trailed 52-0 before Brandon Sytsma scored on a 9-yard run with 8:02 left to play. Sytsma rushed 127 yards on 22 carries. The Conquerors (7-3) were undone by six turnovers, including two in the red zone.
Thomas’ father – Richard Thomas, who went on to play running back at UW – was a star for the Conquerors. The younger Thomas played for Kentwood as a freshman before transferring to Eastlake. He admitted to some nervous early, saying he actually threw up on the field in the first quarter.
At Skyline 43, Jefferson 13: The Raiders could not get off the field on third downs as the defending Class 4A state champions Spartans converted 7-of-8 in the first half in building a commanding 36-0 halftime lead in Sammamish.
At Glacier Peak 28, Wilson 3: Without its entire starting offensive backfield – quarterback Julius Yates-Brown and tailback Isaiah Simpson were sidelined by injuries – Wilson committed nine turnovers and saw its season end at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Everett.
Two Rams’ quarterbacks combined to complete six of 18 passes for 55 yards – and throw six interceptions.
At Sumner 45, Renton 21: Running back DeJon Lynch ran for 90 yards and three first-half touchdowns on 12 carries to lead the No. 3 Spartans (10-0) past the Indians at Sunset Chev Stadium.
Brandon Tuilaepa had a rushing touchdown and scored on a 51-yard screen pass from Chase Torgison with 56 seconds left in the second quarter to help Sumner take a 35-8 lead at the half.
"We knew we had to run the ball. We wanted to establish the running game and wanted to be physical. We did a really good job of that in the first half," Sumner coach Keith Ross said. "I was really proud of our effort."
Renton quarterback Dassaun Sauls ran for three TDs to lead Renton (4-6).
Orting 37, at North Kitsap 14: The Cardinals (7-3) capitalized on four fumbles by the Vikings to reach the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
North Kitsap (7-3) scored 37 seconds into the game but the early score was not a problem for Orting. The Cardinals scored 28 unanswered points, getting two TDs from Daniel Bessey (43- and 12-yard runs) and two TDs from Eddie Prong (1-yard run and a 31-yard scoring pass to Justin Kennett).
Orting scored nine points in the fourth on a safety and a 1-yard touchdown by fullback Connor Rose, who led the Cardinals with 110 yards on 15 carries.
At Mark Morris 13, Capital 10: Keegan Baker’s 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter capped the No. 7 Monarchs (9-1) comeback win over the Cougars in Longview.
Capital (4-6) led 10-0 at the half thanks to 73-yard TD run by Jacob Johnson and a 32-yard field goal by Van Soderberg as time expired in the second quarter.
But in the second half, Mark Morris took control. Hayden Tapani’s 2-yard scoring run capped a nine-minute, 17-play drive to make it 10-6.
After the Cougars failed to capitalize in consecutive short-field situations in the fourth quarter, Mark Morris got a 31-yard completion on third-and-long from Max Tilton to Cody Enholm, and runs from Tapani and Austin Smith to set up the winner by Baker.
At W.F. West 35, R.A. Long 28: Tanner Gueller’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Moon broke a fourth-quarter tie, giving the sixth-ranked Bearcats the No. 3 seed to the 2A state playoffs.
At King’s 30, Eatonville 12: Koa Wilkins did it with his legs – three scores and 119 yards rushing – and his arm 192 yards passing – to lead the 10th-ranked Knights (8-2) past the Cruisers (7-3) in Shoreline.
After Eatonville made it 16-6 in the third quarter on Wyatt Coleman’s 34-yard TD reception from Caleb Keefer, Wilkins scored on runs of 8 and 14 yards to ice it.
Staff writer Todd Milles contributed to this report