Timberline High School, despite advancing to the Class 3A state playoffs last season and retaining much of its roster, wasn’t ranked in the first set of Associated Press football polls.
After routing Black Hills last week, the Blazers cracked into the poll this week, debuting at No. 9.
But, after ripping by eighth-ranked Bonney Lake, 35-12, on Friday night at South Sound Stadium in Lacey, the Blazers might turn a few heads.
“We’ve just got to keep working and show everybody,” junior Jamin Faalogo said.
Faalogo returned an interception 11 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter — one of two picks he recorded during the game — to ignite a Timberline defense that shut down the Panthers on nearly every drive.
The Blazers’ defense combined for three interceptions, caused and recovered a fumble and forced Bonney Lake to turn the ball over on downs twice.
“The defense kind of plays a little screw loose, and they have a good time out there,” Timberline coach Nick Mullen said.
Timberline allowed two early scores in the first 15 minutes, but the Panthers never reached the end zone after that, and went scoreless in the second half.
“In the beginning, we were starting off really slow,” Faalogo said. “But, at halftime we had a great talk. We bonded, we were getting together, we were making sure we had our mindset on the right track.”
Bonney Lake scored on the game’s opening drive when senior quarterback Kaiden Hammond barreled into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper.
But the Blazers answered less than two minutes later, when senior running back Michael Barnes scurried 12 yards into the end zone to cap a quick four-play drive. That gave Timberline a lead it would never lose.
Faalogo’s interception return followed minutes later, before Bonney Lake scored its final touchdown of the game — a 6-yard keeper by Hammond — with 10 minutes, 45 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Timberline stopped the Panthers short of scoring on the next eight drives.
“It started to get easier during the game,” Faalogo said. “Quarterback, running back, wide receiver are always talking to each other, looking at each other. It’s easy to read when you see an open spot.”
Faalogo recorded his second interception in the second quarter, and senior linebacker Ty Edmond caught another off of a tipped pass in the fourth quarter.
Timberline limited Bonney Lake to just 54 yards on the ground. Hammond finished 17 of 31 passing for 226 yards, throwing three interceptions and rushing for Bonney Lake’s only two scores.
Junior wide receiver Amitri Allen was Hammond’s top target, finishing with nine catches for 111 yards, but never reached the end zone.
“The way our team is set, the defense can kind of set the tone,” Mullen said. “Once they set it, the offense follows suit.”
After a sluggish opening half on offense, the Blazers rallied for 21 points in the final two frames, led by junior Hunter Campau, who took over at quarterback.
Campau scrambled for touchdowns of 4 and 2 yards to give Timberline a 27-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Hunter is a competitor and a leader. He’s kind of got that ‘it’ factor,” Mullen said.
Senior running back Lonnie Anderson added another 4-yard score on Timberline’s following drive.
Timberline combined for 175 yards on the ground — Barnes led with 20 carries for 71 yards and the one touchdown — and 103 through the air.
But the Blazers’ defense did most of the heavy lifting.
“Our defense is our backbone, that’s what keeps us all together as one,” Faalogo said.