Josiah Bronson said after the Kentwood High School football team’s 43-0 victory Friday against visiting Curtis that the Conquerors’ defense could be the best in the state.
Even if it’s the first game of the season, the statement is hard to argue with considering the result.
Kentwood picked off three passes, recovered a fumble and Bronson helped force a safety.
“The whole week we were working hard,” said Bronson, Kentwood’s 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end. “We were ready for this. This was the hard work paying off.”
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Both these teams came off losses in the Class 4A district round last season. The storied programs have a combined 36 state tournament appearances and six state titles.
But Kentwood had everything going its way from the start. The Conks used 10 running backs to rush for 328 yards, led by Isaiah Williams’ 70 yards and two touchdowns, against a team that had the best rush defense in the 4A South Puget Sound League South Division last season (though Curtis returned four players from that defense and lost two All-Area players).
“That’s not Curtis football,” Vikings coach Clay Angle said. “We didn’t do a good job with our run fits early. We adjusted, but you can’t give a team like that that big a lead early.”
Meanwhile, Kentwood dominated defensively, holding Curtis to 57 rushing yards and 58 passing.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” Angle said. “That took away our strengths. if you can’t run, you have to throw, and that put more pressure on us.”
Darold Thach picked off Curtis QB Nathaniel Wentz on his first pass attempt as a varsity starter, just after the Conquerors completed their opening drive with Williams’ 3-yard run into the end zone.
After Curtis got the ball back, Wentz dropped back on their second play from scrimmage but was intercepted by Makani Mafua. Kentwood’s Brian Campbell made the Vikings regret the turnover with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Connor Benson the next play.
Mafua’s interception was the first of his two in the first half. His second came after Williams had put Kentwood ahead 21-0 with a 32-yard touchdown run.
But Curtis struggled with more than just the passing game.
Wentz was sacked in the end zone by Bronson (whose older brother Demitrius is currently on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad) and Kyle Capperauld to put Kentwood ahead 23-0 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
Curtis forced a turnover on downs in the ensuing possession, with Kentwood at the Curtis 22-yard line. But the Vikings fumbled it right back.
The Curtis drives in the first half: interception, interception, turnover on downs, punt, interception, punt, safety, fumble, punt.
And when it rains, it sometimes pours. Kentwood fumbled in the third quarter, but sophomore center Andrew Leick picked it up and ran 33 yards into the end zone to put the Conks up 43-0.
Plays like that combined with a dominant defensive effort to help negate Kentwood’s 15 penalties for 176 yards.
“We have a lot to work on, believe me. They aren’t going to like it after I talk to them on Saturday,” Kentwood coach Rex Norris said.