Thursday night’s contest at Auburn Memorial Stadium was a battle for fourth place in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League when Bonney Lake faced off against Auburn.
And after the Panthers’ line dominated both sides of the ball, it was Bonney Lake earning a 37-20 victory over Auburn to improve its record to 3-2 in league play.
Auburn (2-5 overall) fell to 2-3 in league with the loss.
“We feel good about our chances to get in (the postseason),” Bonney Lake running back Marcus Hamilton said. “Right now, we just need one more these next two weeks and we’ll be in the playoffs. We’re going to work hard to get that (final) spot.”
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Bonney Lake (4-3 overall) hosts rival and league leader Sumner (6-0, 4-0 league) next Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium before closing out against Peninsula (2-4, 1-3). A win in either week will secure a playoff spot for the Panthers.
“Right now we’re in the mindset of playoff football,” Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time, but we’re going to be playing each game as if it were the playoffs.”
Bonney Lake jumped out quickly on Auburn on Thursday as a couple big plays led to easy scores throughout the first half.
Quarterback Dane Wagner was sharp throughout, looking for either Jared Cozzi or Adan Fashel on deep throws to put pressure on the Auburn defensive backs. It was a chess match for the senior quarterback facing the Trojans’ defense.
“When our line blocks the way they did tonight, we can do a lot of things on offense,” Hamilton said. “They help give us lanes to run, and all we have to do is finish our runs.”
And when the Panthers got within striking distance, they put it into the hands of their backs: Hamilton and Ethan Koepke each scored on 3-yard runs in the second quarter to give Bonney Lake a 21-0 halftime lead.
“Our line just held up consistently tonight and allowed me to see nothing but green,” Koepke said. “They stood up tonight for both of us.”
Not to be outdone by the offense, the Bonney Lake defense stood tall, putting the hurt on rushing quarterback Justin Ioimo. With Auburn trailing by two scores late in the second, Ioimo drove the Trojans deep into Bonney Lake territory with a scoring chance at the 24-yard line.
But as the Panther line pressured him, Ioimo sent a duck that bounced off of a linebacker before finding the hands of Bailey Brigham.
“I just saw the ball bounce and I grabbed it and fell on it,” Brigham said. “The (defensive) line came in not wanting to give up anything up the middle, and we pressured them all game.”
Bonney Lake converted the turnover into points as the Panther offense capped off a drive with Koepke’s touchdown run before the half.
Auburn’s comeback attempt came up short in the second half. Ioimo connected with Malik Williams on a 55-yard touchdown reception, and Williams added another score on a 53-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 28-14. Williams had 167 receiving yards and finished with 230 all-purpose yards in the second half.
“We just need to find consistency … the line needs to hold up on each play, and we need everyone to step up to move on,” Williams said. “We’re on the outside looking in — that’s how it is.”
Koepke added a 32-yard touchdown run late that secured the win and gave the Panthers sole possession of final playoff spot out of the 3A SPSL.
“It feels good to get this win and to secure fourth place,” Hamilton said. “It’s ours right now.”