Led by Ethan Koepke’s big game, Bonney Lake High pulled off an upset against Arlington on Friday night.
When the Panthers went into their matchup against 3A Wesco North champion Arlington (7-3), coach Jason Silbaugh understood his team was in for a fight with the air attack the Eagles could deploy.
“We knew they liked to spread the ball out with a senior-led group at quarterback and receiver,” Silbaugh said.
But it wasn’t the air attack of Arlington that was the story — it was Koepke, who carried the Panthers to a 33-21 district playoff victory.
Bonney Lake (6-4) moves onto the state bracket, and will travel to face 3A Narrows League champion Lincoln (10-0) this weekend at either Lincoln Bowl or Mount Tahoma Stadium, depending on the weather.
Koepke finished with 295 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns.
Despite dealing with distractions earlier in the week, Koepke felt like a weight had been lifted and it was his time to carry his Panther team. And his teammates saw it as well in the way he ran over the Eagles with each carry.
“Marcus (Hamilton) came up to me and said they couldn’t stop him (Koepke),” said Silbaugh about how Koepke’s teammates saw how he was plowing through the Eagle defense. “He said to keep giving him the ball because they couldn’t tackle him.”
With Arlington leading 14-12 coming out of halftime, Koepke went to work, scoring three of his touchdowns in the second half.
The first one came on a 46-yard run to put Bonney Lake up 19-14, but it was his final two scores that proved to be the decisive scores of the game.
After his third score, Arlington was able to strike back quickly to cut the Panther lead to 24-21. Facing a fourth-and-1 with roughly 4 minutes left in the game, Koepke made his biggest run.
“We only needed a few yards for the first down, but he was able to give us more,” Silbaugh said.
Koepke fired through the line to bounce out and through the Arlington defense as the senior hit paydirt for a 31-yard, game-deciding touchdown that propelled Bonney Lake into the 3A state bracket.
“He said he came into this week like a weight had been lifted,” Silbaugh said of Koepke’s week. “He’s one of the most determined kids I have coached, and this game just showed his character. He wears his colors with pride.”
Bonney Lake’s win gave the 3A South Puget Sound League a clean sweep of districts, as Auburn Mountainview, Lakes and Sumner also advanced to the state bracket.