The Peninsula High football team will get its toughest test of the season Thursday night (Oct. 27) on the road against Timberline, as the Seahawks and Blazers will duke it out for the Class 3A South Sound Conference title. I caught up with The Olympian’s preps reporter, Lauren Smith, to give fans an idea of what to expect in Thursday night’s showdown in Lacey.
Timberline has had a great season after a rocky 2015 campaign. What has changed this season for the Blazers?
Timberline was one of the first schools I visited during the summer to work on preseason previews. One thing I immediately noticed is how big the team is this year — in turnout and in size. Timberline didn’t have that last year. The senior class is huge this year, and a lot of these guys — specifically on the offensive line — have been playing together for years. Several of the players have told me that the team is more cohesive this year, and that familiarity is a big part of it.
Timberline had a bizarre forfeiture against Yelm (a game it won, 21-7) due to a player ineligibility issue? What exactly happened and what has the team learned from that incident?
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Just a really unfortunate, unintentional incident if you ask anyone on that campus. One of Timberline’s two-way starters was ineligible to play against Yelm because his physical had expired. The administration figured that out the Monday after the game was played, and, under WIAA rules, self-reported the incident to 3A South Sound Conference officials. Because the player was considered to have a significant enough role in the game, the league decided Timberline had to forfeit. From what I’ve understood, it was an honest oversight — one everyone I’ve talked to at Timberline wishes they could have back.
Peninsula is seemingly one of the few programs left that still huddles and values time of possession. What can fans expect to see from Timberline’s offense?
A big, strong, frustrating offensive line. Like I said, these guys have played together for a long time, and are very effective — which is why Timberline is such a run-heavy offense. The Blazers have rushed for 2,156 yards and 22 touchdowns behind this offensive line this year. That’s 269.5 rushing yards per game. Anthony Hathaway, their stud running back, is the workhorse. Expect him to get the majority of the touches. Timberline has a pair of quarterbacks in Jacob Henning and Trenton Horn, but don’t tend to rely on the pass much.
It sounds like senior running back Anthony Hathaway has big-play ability. What does he bring to the table?
The first thing Timberline coach Mike Spears told me about Hathaway is that he runs angry — really accurate interpretation of this guy. He’s aggressive, he grinds for yards and he’s the undisputed centerpiece of this offense. Coaches have told me that the amount of emphasis Timberline has put on the run this season was planned with Hathaway in mind before the season started. He has rushed for 100-plus yards in seven of eight games — in Timberline’s only outright loss to Bonney Lake, he rushed for 86 yards. He has 213 carries for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns entering Thursday’s game.
Who are some other impact players fans should keep an eye on?
Hathaway is the focal point, but several other players supplement him. RB/WR hybrid Michael Barnes is also a consistent threat. Hathaway rushed 29 times for 275 yards and three TDs against Gig Harbor. Barnes had 13 carries for 111 yards and a TD in that game. WR/DB Tariq Romain is dangerous in all three phases. He’s a deep threat on offense, has several interceptions on defense at corner, and is a threat to return a kick.
If Timberline is going to get the win and take the league title, what do the Blazers need to do well?
Make fewer mistakes than Peninsula. Turnovers and penalties have the potential to decide this game. Peninsula doesn’t make mistakes often. Neither does Timberline, typically. The game the Blazers did make several mistakes, it cost them a win at Bonney Lake. Limiting mistakes will be crucial. Spears has also stressed how strong Peninsula’s defensive line is — it has enough depth to rotate players in and out to stay fresh. Timberline’s offensive line needs to match the energy there and give Hathaway enough room to work — if he isn’t able to get in a groove, the Blazers will have a tough game. Special teams could also be a factor. Timberline has returned a few kicks this season.
Alright, what’s your prediction?