With a beanie on his head, and a grin plastered all over his face, Colby Davies knew what this win meant.
As the interim coach at Steilacoom High School.
Heck, even as an alumnus of the school.
The eighth-ranked Sentinels survived a back-and-forth tussle with perennial small-school powerhourse Othello, edging the Huskies, 28-26, in a Class 2A state first-round game at Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
It was Steilacoom’s first state playoff win since 2003, which happened to be Davies’ junior season as a player.
Steilacoom (9-2) will host No. 2 Tumwater next weekend in the 2A quarterfinals. The schools met earlier this season in a non-conference tilt, won 48-12 by the Thunderbirds.
None of that matters now. The only thing the Steilacoom sideline was thinking about Saturday was how it had to overcome a few more stumbling blocks to get this victory.
▪ Othello scored on the second play of the game on Kyler Villareal’s 81-yard touchdown scamper, and eventually built a 13-0 first-quarter lead on the Sentinels.
▪ Steilacoom had two first-half touchdowns called back because of penalties that surely would have come in handy.
“We came out slow ... but in the second half, we came out and played our hearts out, because it could have been our last game,” Sentinels center Nate Maassen said. “We stuck with that mentality just to score.”
The Sentinels just continued to fire away through the air behind quarterback JJ Lemming, who was 19 of 38 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, both to talented ninth grader Emeka Egbuka.
The last one, a 33-yard catch and run along the right sideline, allowed the Sentinels to regain the lead, 21-19, with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter.
And 6 1/2 minutes later, Steilacoom tacked on a final score on Jordan Bush-Johnson’s 6-yard touchdown run off a direct snap.
Things looked good. The Sentinels led 28-19 late in the third quarter. And their defense held Othello to just 9 total yards in that quarter.
But as the 2A SPSL champions have experienced all season, nothing has come easy. And this win certainly did not.
Othello’s Isaiah Perez popped a 72-yard touchdown run off left tackle that trimmed the Sentinels’ lead to 28-26 with 9:49 to go.
And on Steilacoom’s next series, Lemming’s pass was tipped at the line, and picked off by Huskies’ cornerback Patrick Azevedo at the Sentinels’ 42.
The Huskies had Steilacoom on the ropes, and ground out a long drive behind their power rushing attack.
They got down to the Steilacoom 12-yard line with 5:39 to go, facing a fourth-and-2.
Instead of attempting a field goal, Othello went to Perez, its bruising 6-foot-3, 240-pound running back. He charged up the middle, and was met by a host of Steilacoom defenders, notably Matthew Fulps and Parker Danielson, and was held to a 1-yard gain.
“We knew we had to come in and play physical up front,” Davies said.
Steilaccom got the football back at the 5:33 mark, and turned to running back Jaymason Willingham, who amassed 73 rushing yards to eat up much of the clock.
Othello got it back with 40 seconds remaining, and Guzman promptly threw an interception to Steilacoom’s TJ Page on the first play.
“All I was thinking in my head was focusing on the ball, and it worked out,” said Page, who also had nine receptions for 221 yards.
All Davies could do after the game was offer words of praise for the job his players had done in clutch moments.
“I told these guys today, ‘This cements your legacy,’ ” Davies said. “They are league champions, and the farthest any team from Steilacoom has ever been was the quarterfinals. They won this game, and no one can argue they are not the best team to walk through here.”
AT STEILACOOM 28, OTHELLO 26
O-Kyler Villareal 81 run (kick failed).
O-Trevor Hilmes 4 run (Patrick Azevedo kick).
S-Emeka Egbuka 15 pass from JJ Lemming (Johnnie McCurley kick).
S-Mykah Brown 49 fumble return (McCurley kick).
O-Villareal 28 pass from DJ Guzman (pass failed).
S-Egbuka 33 pass from Lemming (McCurley kick).
S-Jordan Bush-Johnson 6 run (McCurley kick).
O-Isaiah Perez 72 run (Azevedo kick).