Darren Tinnerstet’s football coaching career at Capital High School kicked off exactly the way his playing career with the Cougars ended – with a victory.
Capital avoided a major late-game collapse after Jack Collard hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Walker with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining as the Cougars opened the 2017 season with a 20-15 non-league victory over visiting River Ridge at Ingersoll Stadium on Friday.
Lifeless through the opening 3 1/2 quarters, River Ridge trailed 14-0. The Hawks, though, scored twice over a two-minute span to surprisingly take the lead with three minutes to play, 15-14.
Hunter Prida got the Hawks on the scoreboard first, hauling in a 5-yard scoring strike from Jeter Larson. Moments later Tomasi Manu’s 50-yard punt return for a score pulled River Ridge within a PAT of tying things up. A low snap prevented a attempt on the kick, but holder Blake Anderson was able to scope the ball up and run it in for the 2-point conversion.
Capital junior quarterback Grant Erickson, however, marched his team down the field, converting a fourth-and-18 at midfield to keep the drive going, before a halfback pass from sophomore Walker to Collard for the game-winner.
“I told the team if we got into the red zone, we’d run that play,” Tinnerstet said. “The kids executed it to perfection.”
Tinnerstet, a 1997 Capital graduate, was the starting quarterback on the Cougars 1996 state championship team, leading them to a 17-7 victory over West Valley of Yakima in the title game.
While this win may not have been up to the same caliber as the one 21 years ago, it did provide the team with some positively following a tumultuous past two months.
Tinnerstet was named interim head coach late in the summer after John Johnson resigned in mid-July following allegations of a “lack of supervision” of the program at the Central Washington University football camp in 2016.
“The kids needed a win,” Tinnerstet said. “They’ve been through so much over this summer, and they just kept working hard. They’ve overcome a lot. I can’t say enough about them. They deserved this.”
Junior Eric Jackson finished with 118 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for the Cougars, who also received a 1-yard TD run from Nate Tyler midway through the fourth quarter to grab a 14-0 lead.
The Cougars scored on their opening drive with Jackson doing most of the damage on the ground, running for 53 yards on six carries, including a 13-yard TD scamper which gave Capital a 7-0 advantage five minutes in.
River Ridge, a state 2A quarterfinalist last year which starts just one senior on defense and none of offense, settled in on defense after surrendering the early score, but failed to find any consistency moving the ball in the first half as the Hawks managed just 44 yards of offense.