Bonney Lake High senior Jacob Rasher felt the anxiety of the Panthers’ win-or-go-home game Friday night against SPSL 3A league foe Peninsula at Sunset Chev Stadium.
How could the first-year punter not feel the pressure?
This game meant everything for Bonney Lake — mainly a chance to extend the season and take claim of the league’s final playoff spot.
“I felt a little too excited on my first punt and it didn’t go as far as I wanted it,” Rasher said.
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Then the senior calmed down as Bonney Lake’s offense sputtered, forcing him to keep his team’s chances alive.
And that’s exactly what Rasher did in Bonney Lake’s 13-10 victory over the defending league champs, helping the Panthers secure fourth place and the coveted No. 4 seed.
“When you have a kid kicking the ball and forcing them to go 80 or 90 yards downfield, you give your team a chance to win,” Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh said.
Rasher averaged roughly 48 yards per punt, while often hitting four seconds of hangtime.
The second half was where Rasher really shined as he consistently nailed punts inside deep inside Seahawks territory. Every one of those punts resulted in Peninsula stalling at midfield, giving Bonney Lake the chance to mount a comeback.
“We knew we were coming in to face the league’s best punter,” Peninsula coach Ross Filkins said. “We knew he had a leg on him.”
After Peninsula kicker Danny Jackson nailed a 16-yard field goal to extend the Seahawks’ lead to 10-0 right out of the half, Rasher took the life from the Peninsula and put the Panthers on the winning path.
“Our guys wouldn’t back down despite being behind,” Silbaugh said. “Jacob gave us a chance to make our comeback.”
The defense stepped up in the third, winning the game for Bonney Lake after a momentum-shifting play from defensive end Marcus Hamilton.
After combining for a sack on Peninsula quarterback Ryder Johnson on the previous play, Hamilton again broke through the line and sent Johnson running toward the sideline. In a last-minute effort, Johnson tried to dump off his pass, but the ball went toward Luke Kacer.
After tipping the ball into his hands, Kacer took it back for 45 yards, setting up the offense for Jason Day’s 18-yard score to cut the lead to 10-7.
“Marcus made a big block that opened up a lot of green on the return,” Kacer said.
“I thought he was going to score,” Hamilton added.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Bonney Lake quarterback Dane Wagner connected with Hamilton on a 44-yard touchdown and give the Panthers a 13-10 lead.
“I told Marcus that their corner was playing up the field,” Wagner said. “I said I was going to look his way.”
And the score was all determination.
“I just wanted to get the score,” Hamilton said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
With the loss, Peninsula (4-5, 3-4 league) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to win tonight and have a meaningful game next week,” Rasher said.
Bonney Lake (5-4, 4-3) will hit the road to play Arlington (7-2), the No. 2 seed out of the Wesco, this Friday.