A crushing, last-second loss to Liberty Christian in last year’s Class 1B state championship game sent ripples through the Neah Bay High School football program.
Quarterback Josiah Greene emotionally shut down for a week, turning off all of his electronic devices and pouring all of his effort into watching game film. The team started fresh the following Monday after the loss, reporting to the weight room to start preparing for this season.
All of the hard work and preparation paid off Friday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome as top-ranked Neah Bay knocked off Touchet, 36-18, to capture its second 1B state championship in three seasons.
“We had to get good enough to blow teams out so that we wouldn’t have to lose in the last seconds like that final game,” said Greene, a senior who rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
But third-ranked Touchet (12-2) had visions of its own blowout early, jumping out to a 12-0 lead after Cesar Velasquez hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Elias Martinez with 4 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
“(We) just don’t play real well off the bat,” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley said. “We’ve tried a lot of different things (to change it). (The players) seem to come around, and when they do it’s pretty impressive.”
That was indeed the case, as the Red Devils responded with a pair of touchdown drives. Cody Cummins’ 2-yard touchdown run and an ensuing two-point conversion gave Neah Bay a 14-12 halftime lead.
The Red Devils opened the third quarter with a dominant drive, handing the ball to the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Cummins on eight plays of a 12-play, 54-yard drive. The senior finished it off with a 3-yard TD run, pushing the lead to 20-12 with less than 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
“We were a little bigger than them (up front),” McCaulley said. “That was our game plan — to go right at them (with the run).”
Cummins and Greene — who was hobbled by a strained hamstring — combined to rush for 328 yards. Tyler McCaulley and Zeke Greene added rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Neah Bay (12-0) extended its lead.
“It was hurting, but I tried to play through it because it was my last game,” Josiah Greene said. “I couldn’t let the team down like that. This team means everything to me.”
The win was bittersweet for Tony McCaulley, who has coached many of the seniors since they were 7 years old.
“I’m going to miss them bad,” he said.
But a second state title during a dominant run no doubt eases the pain.
“It’d be better if it was a three-peat, but we made it (to the finals) three times in a row — that’s history right there,” Cummins said.