For the Timberline High School football team, goal line stands in key moments might just be part of the Blazers’ DNA.
In 2016, it was a four-play goal line stand against Peninsula, to win 7-3 and win the Class 3A South Sound Conference title.
On Friday night, another goal line stand against a team from across the bridge—this time, Gig Harbor High School. Hanging onto a 7-0 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Blazers stuffed the Tides on first, second, third and fourth down.
Then Timberline quarterback Hunter Campau found wide receiver Izaiah Jerenz for a 78-yard score to put the Blazers up 14-0. Timberline, looking for its third consecutive lead title hung on for a 14-7 win over an improved Gig Harbor squad.
“Bend, don’t break,” said Timberline coach Nick Mullen, commenting on the goal line stand. “That’s our thing. We try not to give anything over the top. We try to defend every blade of grass. That’s what they did tonight.”
It was a grind-it-out sort of game, with neither defense conceding many explosive plays. Timberline got on the board first in the second quarter, when Campau found JJ Graham for a 49-yard score. There wasn’t any scoring until the fourth quarter and Timberline’s 78-yard touchdown. Gig Harbor bounced back quickly, when backup quarterback Cade Desssert found sophomore receiver Griffin Sparrow for a 28-yard touchdown.
But Gig Harbor ultimately ran out of time as the Blazers hung on for the win.
“It was really important to grind this one out,” Campau said. “Our goal is to play in our third-straight league championship. Playing Gig is always tough. They’re a tough team. We knew if we wanted to win the league, we’d have to beat Gig Harbor and start 1-0 and set ourselves up for a league championship run.”
Campau, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior, who Mullen called “the toughest kid on the team,” had a big game for the Blazers, rushing 21 times for 157 yards. 105 of those yards came in the second half.
“I kind of want to be the guy who either wins the game for us or loses it,” Campau said. “I saw holes to run through. That’s really just credit to my offensive line and my running back. If they’re doing their job, I just flip through. Defenses don’t mind me, they’re just keying on our running back.”
Campau also completed 10-of-16 passes for 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Gig Harbor starting quarterback Ben Hollenbeck left the game in the first half with an injury, putting Dessert into action for the Tides. Dessert got stronger as the game went on, going 18-for-34 passing for 231 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
But penalties often stalled Gig Harbor’s drive and being turned away at the goal-line — resulting in a 14-point swing — proved too much to overcome. On the stand, Gig Harbor’s four players were all run plays.
“We just tried to push it in and we couldn’t,” said Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart. “They held us out. They’re pretty physical up front. They stopped us right on the goal. What hurt us was they drove from there and scored. We had a mistake and that’s the difference.”
Still, Gig Harbor looks significantly improved from last season and there was plenty of positive to take away from the game.
“We hung in there, we battled really hard and made a couple mistakes,” Fairhart said. “That was the difference in the game. Our kids battled really hard though. I was proud of the way they played.”
Timberline’s title defense is off to an undefeated start in league.
“It’s one of those games where we had to win it,” Mullen said. “Everyone is taking shots at us. It’s two years in a row that we’re league champs. We get it. This is one of those games you just have grind out, lean on your offensive line. Offensively, we weren’t clicking too well, but we started to get a little rhythm. The defense played lights out. They played a great game.”
T – Graham 49 pass from Campau (kick)
T – Jerenz 78 pass from Campau (kick)
GH – Sparrow 28 pass from Dessert (Kinney kick)
Passing: T – Campau 10-16-1-176. GH – Hollenbeck 3-4-0-59; Dessert 18-34-2-231.
Rushing: T – Campau 21-157; Gorman 14-41; Hayes 2-10; Fa’alogo 1-2. GH – Williams 11-27; Hollenbeck 2-(-7); Dessert 6-9; Plymate 8-21; E. Williams 2-(-6).
Receiving: T – Jerenz 3-85; Graham 3-60; Aunese 4-31. GH – Sparrow 7-116; E. Williams 4-80; Hering 1-15; Bratrud 3-22; Bruess 2-9; Plymate 1-21; McKay 1-7; Turnbull 1-15; Novotny 1-11.