The Graham-Kapowsin High School football team turned the ball over six times Friday at Art Crate Field.
Still league champions, though.
The fourth-ranked Eagles’ defense and special teams more than made up for their offense’s struggles, and G-K left with a 27-6 victory over Bethel to clinch the 4A South Puget Sound League South Division title in the final Friday of the regular season.
Graham-Kapowsin twice forced Bethel to fumble at the 1-yard line and got as many touchdowns from its defense and special teams as it did its offense on what looked more like a rain-drenched Slip-N-Slide than a football field.
Never miss a local story.
“You got to win ugly games,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle said. “And defense wins championships, so I’m really excited for us.”
Bethel cut the lead to 12-6 with about eight minutes to play when Matthew Booth ran in from a yard out after the Braves forced the fifth G-K fumble of the game.
Graham-Kapowsin freshman quarterback Dylan Morris threw an interception two plays later. But the Eagles’ defense stood up, just like they’d done throughout.
G-K’s Foster Sarell, the top-ranked 2016 offensive-line recruit in the nation, made his first appearance since the first week of September when he broke the ulna bone in his right forearm in a win over Kentlake.
He and the offense finally got moving and Viliami Hansen scored a 1-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal after Kobe Merriweather set it up with a 40-yard run. That put G-K ahead 20-6 following the two-point conversion with 3:44 to play.
“It always feels good to be out there,” Sarell said. “I’m not where I was two months ago, but I’ll get there.”
The next play? Bethel quarterback Tristyn Gese, a transfer from Graham-Kapowsin, lost the ball and Brandon Becker dove on it in the end zone.
“Our defense kept us in the game, but it’s one of those where you know you have to stay away from the bad plays,” Bethel coach Mark Iddins said. “Our offense just didn’t get it done.”
Bethel started 6-foot-6, 290-pound Ezra Cleveland at running back. He’s committed to Boise State, but not likely as a running back.
Bryce Missey started at quarterback despite Iddins saying Missey entered the game as a game-time decision (he separated his right shoulder against Puyallup).
“It was just a couple deep balls and you could tell his arm wasn’t quite where it needed to be, even if he wanted to stay in,” Iddins said.
Graham-Kapowsin forced Bethel, which had four turnovers, to punt on its third consecutive offensive series to start the game and the Eagles over on their own 30.
The next play: Graham-Kapowsin receiver Eian Olmos came around and took a pitch after a fake handoff up the middle and ran 70 yards for the first score of the game with 1:51 remaining in the first quarter.
It stayed 6-0 through halftime before Graham-Kapowsin’s Trea Hawthorne blocked a punt in the end zone in the third quarter and Riley Hamilton jumped on it for the score.
Graham-Kapowsin, as the league’s top seed, will play Snohomish next week in the 4A district playoffs.
Bethel, which takes the No. 3 seed — with Curtis finishing No. 2 — will play top-ranked Camas.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677