Gateway: Sports

Peninsula looks for revenge in second consecutive league title game against Timberline

Blazers quarterback Hunter Campau has been a dynamic player for the undefeated Timberline football team this year.
Blazers quarterback Hunter Campau has been a dynamic player for the undefeated Timberline football team this year.

For the second year in a row, Peninsula will face off against Timberline High School for Class 3A South Sound Conference title. The Blazers came out on top last year, winning a physical 7-3 affair and claiming the league’s top seed. Can the Seahawks exact some revenge this season? I caught up with The Olympian’s preps reporter Lauren Smith to find out what type of challenges this year’s Timberline squad presents.

In last year’s league title win against Peninsula, the Blazers impressed me with their physical play at the line of scrimmage. Is this year’s team similarly tough?

As far as run defense, I think you’ll see the same grit you saw last year when Timberline completed that pivotal goal-line stand to come away with the league title. Timberline’s defensive line and linebackers are big, experienced and physical, and I think you’ll only see that amplified this week. In their first eight games, the Blazers allowed just 33.9 rushing yards on average, and held four of their opponents to negative yardage on the ground. From what I’ve seen so far, Timberline’s defensive presence at the line of scrimmage is its biggest strength.

What makes this team different from last year’s squad?

Nick Mullen is back coaching the program after taking two years off to adjust to his new job as the school’s athletic director. Not much changed while he was gone in how the program was run, but he brings a lot of intensity at practice and on the sideline, which I think that has worked in Timberline’s favor.

Apart from typical turnover from graduation, a lot of the personnel is the same, with another year of experience. Timberline is still a run-first offense that relies heavily on a stable of running backs, but one notable change is how the Blazers have started emphasizing the quarterback more. Yes, the Blazers will still run the majority of the time, but junior Hunter Campau, who took over during Week 2, has added an extra threat. He is mobile — with scrambling ability that might remind you of Russell Wilson — and can sling the ball downfield when the rushing attack has trouble finding rhythm.

Who are some players to watch on the Timberline side?

Michael Barnes is Timberline’s primary running back, and one of the most dynamic players on the field on both sides of the ball, regardless of who the Blazers are playing. He’s racked up 899 yards and nine TDs on 150 carries this season, collecting a lot of extra yards on second effort. At free safety, he’s also one of Timberline’s most reliable defenders.

Campau, like I mentioned earlier, has emerged as a big impact player this season. He’s getting more comfortable in the pocket, and threw for a season-best 108 yards and two TDs last week, to bring his season totals to 35 of 68 for 499 yards and five scores. He is a threat on the ground, too, adding another 329 rushing yards and six TDs.

Defensively, take your pick. It’s hard to find a weak link there. The names you will probably hear called out most on big plays are Ty Edmond, Jamin Faalogo and Mason Simeta — three linebackers who have wreaked havoc on offenses this season. Lineman Conner Warick is another who has a knack for getting to the quarterback.

Timberline hasn’t lost a game this year. If there’s a recipe to beating the Blazers, what is it?

Peninsula’s best shot is probably through the air. While Timberline’s rushing defense has been nearly unbreakable, the Blazers have given up 114.6 yards per game through the air on average. Both Bonney Lake and Gig Harbor passed for more than 200 yards, and Capital threw for 193. With Burke Griffin putting together impressive numbers this season, he seems like Peninsula’s best bet to find the end zone.

Alright, what’s your prediction?

Timberline, 14-10.