Maybe it was the temperature hovering in the mid-40s. Maybe it was just because anything can happen during the playoffs.
But even without its head coach, the Steilacoom High School football team cruised in its 2A District 2/3 play-in game, capitalizing on big plays and timely turnovers for a 47-7 win on a rare night of Tuesday football to end visiting Kingston’s season.
Steilacoom (5-5) led 35-7 at halftime under interim coach John Moorehead. Coach Rich Lane was serving the second of a two-game suspension for what Steilacoom athletic director Jake Tyrrell said last week was “poor sportsmanship” following the Sentinels’ 42-40 loss to Franklin Pierce on Oct. 16.
“(We) came out with the same attitude and effort as if he was here,” Moorehead said. “It shows consistency and it shows we’re good at coaching coaches. Everyone can step up and fill someone else’s shoes.”
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The Sentinels cashed in early on two big turnovers by Kingston (3-7).
Steilacoom senior linebacker Jacob Clark scored a touchdown when he scooped up the Buccaneers’ botched snap that tumbled into their own end zone.
Then junior defensive back La’jon Enis-Carter jumped and picked off a pass from Bucs quarterback Max English and ran it back 45 yards only seconds after Clark’s end zone fumble recovery.
Steilacoom’s offense got going, too. Quarterback Anthony Leiato broke loose for a 45-yard run in the second quarter and then followed it up with a 74-yard pass to junior receiver Marques Hampton Jr. to put the Sentinels ahead by 28 points with just over two minutes remaining until halftime.
“I saw it and took advantage of it,” Leiato said.
Leiato was 9 of 13 passing for 153 yards and two touchdowns with Hampton catching four passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Anthony Garcia had 18 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Kingston’s offense stalled. English was limited to three completions on 14 attempts, though running back Alex Barrett had 18 carries for 98 yards.
The second half became a defensive struggle. The Sentinels went conservative on offense, mostly running the ball and burning up the clock, while Kingston failed on four fourth-down conversions. The fourth quarter was played under a running clock because Steilacoom had taken a 40-point lead before the end of the third quarter.
Moorhead said he didn’t really change anything with running the team, which had a physical practice Monday, and that the cool temperatures didn’t affect them on the field.
Lane will return for the Sentinels’ District 2/3 playoff game against seventh-ranked Olympic at 7 p.m. Saturday at Silverdale Stadium.
Franklin Pierce coach Mickey Ahrens was suspended one game, which he has already served, involving the same post-game incident as Lane. Requests sent to the Steilacoom School District for further explanation of the suspensions had not been returned.
If Steilacoom can win Saturday, on three days rest, it would earn its third trip to the 2A state playoffs in the past five years.
Staff writer TJ Cotterill contributed to this report