Never again will Steilacoom High School football coach Rich Lane have to stress the importance of special-teams practice to his players.
They got the best lesson how impactful it can be in a game.
Never before had Steilacoom beaten Tumwater — until Friday night when the visiting Sentinels shocked the second-ranked Thunderbirds, 33-23, in a non-conference thriller at Tumwater Stadium.
The loss ended Tumwater’s 40-game winning streak during the regular season, dating back to the 2012 season opener.
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“It was a nice win against a classy program,” Lane said.
Just three minutes into the game, Anthony Leiato crashed through the line of scrimmage to block a Tumwater punt. Marques Hampton Jr. scooped it up and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, giving Steilacoom a quick 7-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, the Thunderbirds muffed a punt return deep in their own territory that set up JJ Lemming’s 15-yard scoring strike to Hampton, and Steilacoom had a 14-3 lead.
If the special teams issues were just bad for Tumwater in the first half, they became a game killer in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 27-17, Tumwater was set to get the football back on a punt with five minutes remaining. But the Thunderbirds fumbled again on a punt return.
Tumwater’s defense pushed the Sentinels back near midfield and forced a punt — only to give up a La’jon Enis-Carter’s 45-yard touchdown to Isaiah Hampton on a fake-punt pass to push Steilacoom’s advantage to 33-17 with 3:34 remaining.
“We knew we’d give up some scores, but we were just hoping if we could limit them enough, we’d have a shot,” Lane said.
“Defense won this game for us, along with our special teams. We came here to compete, and the tribute goes to the kids.”
At Kennedy Catholic 41, Kentlake 24: The Lancers scored two second-quarter touchdowns in a 14-second span that helped them upend the previously-undefeated Falcons in a Cascade Division showdown at Highline Stadium in Burien.
Kendall Oakes gave Kennedy a 7-3 lead on a 2-yard touchdown scamper. And after recovering an onside kick, Ben Gaoteole connected with Jared Thurber on a 62-yard scoring pass with 6:06 to go in the first half.
Emerald Ridge 49, at Rogers 12: The “King of the Hill” trophy will stay with the Jaguars after their lopsided victory at Sparks Stadium.
Logan Skoda threw for 266 yards and five touchdowns — with four of the scores coming in the first half as Emerald Ridge built a 35-6 lead.
At Bellarmine Prep 35, Curtis 20: The Lions broke a 14-14 halftime with a pair of third-quarter rushing touchdowns in fending off the Vikings at Memorial Field in Tacoma.
Matthew Money had 34 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
At No. 6 Peninsula 15, Capital 12: Blake Cantu rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with just under six minutes remaining as the Seahawks survived at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy.
Cantu’s 3-yard run with 5:59 to go capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive to give the Seahawks a 15-12 lead.
The Cougars twice drove into Peninsula territory in the final minutes, losing a fumble at the Seahawks’ 22 with 3:14 remaining, and turning it over on downs from the Peninsula 40 with six seconds to go.
Lakes 28, at Mount Tahoma 12: The Lancers tallied three first-quarter touchdowns, including a 12-yard fumble return by Che Rogers, and Lakes won at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma.
For the second consecutive week, Mount Tahoma’s Ira Branch returned a kickoff for a touchdown– this time an 82-yarder late in the first half.
At Eatonville 28, Renton 6: Tristan Graff tossed three touchdown passes, including one to 15-yarder to Ray Springer with 43 seconds to go in the first half that gave the Cruisers a two-touchdown lead at home.
Cascade Christian 40, at Klahowya 6: Tyquan Coleman rushed for 108 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cougars rolled to a victory over the Eagles in Bremerton.
Coleman also hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass with 3:12 to go in the third quarter, then tallied his final score on a 5-yard run three minutes later to give the Cougars a 40-6 lead.
At No. 5 Tacoma Baptist 58, Quilcene 8: After a big win in University Place, the Crusaders are in the driver’s seat for the league title.
Benefiting from a huge night from quarterback PJ Talen, Tacoma Baptist remained undefeated after a convincing win at Curtis High School.
“Quilcene is big and physical, and we knew if we were going to win the league title, we were going to have to go through them,” Tacoma Baptist coach Tim Rasmussen said.
Talen rushed 17 times for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He threw for 135 yards and another score. And on defense, he had 13 tackles, picked off a pass and forced two fumbles.
Talen’s 5-yard scamper with under a minute to go before halftime gave the Crusaders a 22-2 lead.