Emeka Egbuka didn’t do it all for sixth-ranked Steilacoom High School as it stayed undefeated with a 45-31 victory over visiting River Ridge on Friday night.
The man Egbuka calls “the gunslinger” — senior quarterback J.J. Lemming — passed for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Jaysen Coalsen caught a game-high six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Division I prospect Jaymason Willingham played strong defense at his linebacker spot, and added 107 yards on 16 carries.
But, Egbuka was everywhere.
The sophomore receiver — who already holds offers from Florida State, Oregon and Oregon State — caught three touchdown passes, ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and, on defense, intercepted a pass and ran it back 68 yards to set up the Sentinels’ final score.
“I just let the quarterback put the ball where it needs to be,” said Egbuka, whose scoring catches were anything but routine, coming from 43, 48 and 38 yards.
River Ridge (1-2) started the scoring on the opening drive of the game on a 25-yard Jacob Miller field goal, but Lemming and Egbuka made sure the Sentinels (3-0) got the lead back and kept it on their first possession, scoring on that 43-yard connection.
When Coalsen caught his own 43-yard touchdown strike from Lemming, it looked as if Steilacoom might pull away.
But, the Hawks have a speedy sophomore sensation of their own in receiver Dontae Owens, who caught a 70-yard pass from fellow sophomore Jevon Brown in stride, and finished with a sprint to the end zone.
After Willingham briefly gave the Sentinels breathing room with a 17-yard touchdown run, another Hawks speedster, senior Tomasi Manu, brought River Ridge back to within one score on a 70-yard sprint up the right side.
Last seasons, these teams struggled to a 12-6 final score, with eventual Class 2A SPSL Sound champion Steilacoom emerging as the winner.
“Both teams have big playmakers,” Egbuka said. “We have a lot of guys who can make big plays, and we got the ball into the hands of those guys. It was a shootout all night.”
Egbuka fired perhaps the fatal shot immediately after halftime.
The Hawks were penalized and forced to kick off from their 25-yard line to start the third quarter. Egbuka ran the kick back 72 yards for a touchdown, and it was never a one-score game again.
His two second half touchdown catches countered running scores by Manu (11 yards) and Brown (1).
Despite the loss, River Ridge had some strong individual performances. Owens caught three passes from Brown for 102 yards.
Manu used his ability to reverse field and elude tacklers to total 108 yards on eight carries, and Kieran Hunkin piled up 80 yards on 20 carries mostly between the tackles.
NO. 6 STEILACOOM
R – Jacob Miller 25 field goal
S – Emeka Egbuka 43 pass from J.J. Lemming (Ty Reeder kick)
S – Jayden Coalsen 43 pass from Lemming (Reeder kick)
R – Dontae Owens 70 pass from Jevon Brown (Miller kick)
S – Jaymason Willingham 17 run (Reeder kick)
R – Tomasi Manu 70 run (Miller kick)
S – Egbuka 70 kickoff return (Reeder kick)
S – Egbuka 48 pass from Lemming (Reeder kick)
R – Manu 11 run (Miller kick)
S – Egbuka 38 pass from Lemming (Reeder kick)
S – Reeder 32 field goal
R – Jevon Brown 1 run (Miller kick)
Passing: RR – Brown 5-12-2-116. S – Lemming 12-29-1-282.
Rushing: RR – Kieran Hunkin 20-80; Manu 8-108; Melloy 12-31; Brown 2-(-15); Ryley Larson 3-34. S – Lemming 3-(-8); Willingham 16-107; Lance Garcia 1-(-7); Marcus Hoch 1-2; Deandre Napier 1-6.
Receiving: RR – Larson 2-14, Owens 3-102. S – Coalsen 6-116; Egbuka 4-139; Alex Brady 1-11; Logan Brady 1-16.