This beats traveling to the Tri-Cities.
The Bethel High School football team held off Lakes, 21-19, to secure the second seed from the 3A Pierce County League on Friday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
“This is a team that is used to winning in the playoffs,” Bethel coach Mark Iddins said of Lakes. “We said if we are going to be a playoff team that is going to win, we’ve got to beat other teams that are going to be in the playoffs. It’s a great win.”
So instead of traveling across the mountains to face defending 3A state champion Kamiakin, Bethel gets to stay home and face Yelm either Friday or Saturday next week in a winner-to-state, loser-out district playoff game.
“This is great, especially with the home-field advantage,” Bethel’s Tristyn Gese said. “I feel like our offense drives better at home. And if our defense keeps playing like this – we’re going to go far.”
Yes, the Braves (8-1) showed another facet to their team identity, proving they can play gritty to go with this giddyup offense.
Of the two playoffs teams the Braves have beaten this year, their defense shut out Stadium in the second half of a comeback win four weeks ago. Then it shut down Lakes’ normally staunch running game and did so much more to win Friday’s game.
“We proved tonight that we’re not one of those pushover teams everybody thought we were coming in from last season,” Bethel’s Simba Sokimi said. “We’re not used to stopping the run. That’s been our weakness all season and tonight we proved we can.”
Bethel limited Lakes running back Khalil Lewis to 17 carries for 67 yards – when Lewis entered with games of 397 yards and 255 yards.
So this loss means Lakes will make its seemingly annual pilgrimage to Eastern Washington to face Kamiakin for the second time in three years. Kamiakin beat O’Dea in the Tacoma Dome last year for the 3A state title, but Lakes ended the Braves’ season two years ago when it went to the Tacoma Dome.
Last year, Lakes traveled to Kennewick to face Southridge before advancing to the state quarterfinals.
“We’ll go head over there and play hard and see what happens,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “It will be a challenge, but it’s always fun to challenge yourself against the best. We’ll have a great week of practice and be ready to go.”
But if Lakes had a few plays go the other way on Friday, it would be the one staying home for the playoffs.
Four big plays changed this game. But first, to the first half:
Bethel did seemingly whatever it wanted offensively, scoring on each of its first three drives on three Nate Hughes TD passes – 18 yards on third down to Omar Merriweather, then 16 yards to Adrian Tedtaotao, and 21 yards on fourth down to Peter Latu to make it 21-13 at halftime.
Hughes completed 17 of 24 passes for 204 yards. Machiah Lee caught six passes for 84 yards and Josh Walker ran 12 times for 89 yards in the game.
Lakes then shut Bethel out in the second half. But made too many mistakes on offense.
Tedtaotao dove to intercept a Lakes pass in the end zone in the third quarter. Then Liam Bladow ran for a 14-yard TD, but it was called back on a penalty. Then Bethel’s Sokimi snuffed out a Lakes’ fourth-down pitch to Lewis at the Lancers’ 9.
“That play was picture perfect,” said Sokimi, a senior defensive end. “We practiced for that all week. They had a shovel option and we saw it on film and I was set up perfect so I could play the running back and the quarterback.”
But Lakes finally broke through with 6:58 left to play when Lewis scored on a two-yard run. The Lancers needed a 2-point conversion to tie it and went with Kyreice Miller as the Wildcat quarterback.
He was stuffed at the 1 to keep Bethel ahead, 21-19.
“We gotta play clean,” Miller said. “I tell the kids all the time that it’s a game of execution and when we execute, well we are a hell of a football team.
“But hats off to Bethel. They did a great job. They have a lot of good players. We just didn’t have a great week of practice and it kind of showed today.”
Bethel never gave Lakes the ball back, draining the rest of the clock with a 12-play drive, including a third-down conversion from Will Lutz with 2:29 remaining after Lakes had used a time out.
The Braves last made the playoffs two years ago, when they were in the 4A SPSL and ran into Camas in the district playoffs. And after four wins last year, they now have doubled that this season.
“I feel like we are kind of hitting our stride,” Iddins said. “What you want in the playoffs now is you want to see the team that you have show up. If you get beat, you want it to be because the other team was better than you. Not because you went out and made mistakes.
“That’s what I want to see – a team that is hungry, which I know we are.”
L – Manny Borrero-Lewis 7 run (Liam Bladow kick)
B – Omar Merriweather 18 pass from Nate Hughes (Cameren Schweyn kick)
B – Adrian Tedtaotao 16 pass from Nate Hughes (Cameren Schweyn kick)
L – C.J. Copper 17 pass from Liam Bladow (kick blocked)
B – Peter Latu 21 pass from Nate Hughes (Schweyn kick)
L – Khalil Lewis 2 run (run failed)
RUSHING – Bethel: Josh Walker 12-89; Will Latu 13-61; Nate Hughes 7-(-6). Lakes: Khalil Lewis 17-67; Manny Borrero-Lewis 4-24; Na’hoku Agor 2-24; Daeshawn Wayne 1-13.
PASSING – Bethel: Nate Hughes 17-24-0-204. Lakes: Liam Bladow 13-18-1-167.
RECEIVING – Bethel: Machiah Lee 6-84; Omar Merriweather 3-41; Adrian Tedtaotao 3-32; Peter Latu 2-32. Lakes: Cody Roe 4-50; Na’hoku Agor 2-39; Khalil Lewis 4-29; C.J. Copper 1-17; Kyreice Miller 1-16.