Sure, Eatonville High School would love to show off a high-powered offense in every game in its new 1A Evergreen Conference, but that would not be the case Friday night.
If the fifth-ranked Cruisers were going to win what very well could turn out to be a late-September showdown for the league title, they were going to have to ride their defense.
And they did.
Linebackers George Tomal and Johnathon Warner picked off passes and returned them for touchdowns in the first half, and Eatonville survived a nail-biter, 19-14, over Hoquiam at Olympic Stadium.
In all, the Cruisers forced four turnovers – all interceptions – and held on two fourth-down plays in the second half. The last turnover was the game-clincher when Justin Brandt picked off a Gregory Dick’s wobbling pass along the right sideline, and slid down near midfield with three seconds to go.
"Our defense stepped up and made some huge plays," Eatonville coach George Fairhart said. "That was the difference in the ballgame."
It sure was. The Cruisers really struggled stringing any drives together, gaining a total of 124 yards for the game, to Hoquiam’s 236.
What made matters worse was that starting quarterback Jacob McCormick left the game early in the second half after a play on defense, and did not return. Fairhart said the junior had been having headaches.
In came sophomore backup Brooks Moeller, who attempted one pass. After that, Eatonville ran 29 consecutive rushing attempts over the final 18 minutes.
The Cruisers were able to put one scoring series together early in the fourth quarter. It took 15 plays, all runs, to go 51 yards. Ryan Franz capped it with his 1-yard touchdown up the middle for a 19-7 Cruisers lead with 7:56 to go.
Hoquiam cut it to 19-14 three minutes later on Tyler White’s 2-yard scamper. The Grizzlies got the ball back twice in the final 21/2 minutes, but were really hurt by a crucial unsportsmanlike penalty after a big pass play.
In the end, Eatonville’s defense was the story of the game.
"We want everybody to know we are for real," Warner said. "We’ve come into this league to win it."
McClatcher, a senior tailback, scored on runs of 19 and 20 yards, and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown after Jefferson cut it to 34-21 in the third quarter.
Beamer had a 3-0 lead until Taylor Davis found Chaz McKenzie for a seven-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Isaiah Lard added a 44-yard run for the Titans’ third TD of the final period. Lard rushed for 82 yards on nine carries.
Mount Rainier was held to 88 yards of total offense.
Running back Shannon Edwards, the division’s leading rusher, ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Trevor Asbjornsen added 295 passing yards and a pair of scores.
Beamer (3-1) had a 3-0 lead until Taylor Davis found Chaz McKenzie for a seven-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Isaiah Lard added a 44-yard run for the Titans’ third TD of the final period. Lard rushed for 82 yards on nine carries.
Mount Rainier (0-4) was held to 88 yards of total offense.
Kitna was 16-for-24 for 344 yards. The Abes rolled up 599 total yards.
Thompson scored on an 87-yard run at the end of the first quarter, and later returned a punt 70 yards in the second half at Stadium Bowl. Quarterback Julius Yates-Brown passed for 166 yards, and ran for another 100.
Paulino read Anthony Leiato’s screen pass at the perfect time. The received bobbled the football, and the linebacker grabbed it out of his hands and took off the other way for the score.
Patterson was 14-for-17 for 167 yards passing, and added 37 rushing yards.
Michael Key ran in two touchdowns – the second one on a 49-yard gallop right after halftime. And Kobe Key followed with a 60-yarder for a score to give the Hawks a 37-24 lead.