Gig Harbor scored in the third quarter to get onto the scoreboard for the first time in the game on the road at Ingersoll Stadium against Capital, trailing 20-7 with 1:03 left in the period.
But if the visiting Tides had a glimmer of hope after the score, the Cougars extinguished it just a few seconds later. Junior running back Clayton Grady scampered for a 57-yard touchdown to give Capital a 27-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Cougars came away with a 34-7 win.
“As soon as (Grady) scored, I went up to him and told him it was a huge touchdown,” said Capital senior quarterback Grant Erickson, who finished 11 of 16 passing for 183 yards and three touchdowns, also adding 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground. “It was a great run, great read. It just kind of put the nail in the coffin. It took all the energy out of them. Their sideline was getting into it but that just took them out of it.”
Capital (5-1 overall, 3-1 3A South Sound Conference) had the first half’s only two scores — Erickson ran for a touchdown on a keeper in the first quarter, and connected with Carson Collard for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Cougars a 14-0 lead at half.
The Cougars also scored first in the second half, when Erickson hit receiver Chris Penner for an 80-yard score down the right sideline. Penner finished with three catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns, and also had two interceptions on defense for the Cougars, making an impact on both sides of the ball.
“I was trying to make an impact but I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our offensive line and defensive line,” Penner said. “They were battling up front. They don’t get enough credit. They’re beasts. I give them all the credit.”
Capital coach Terry Rose has grown accustomed to seeing Penner make big plays in games and practices.
“He’s a special player,” Rose said. “He’s a guy that can do it all. More importantly, he comes in and he wants to score, but he’s also a team player. He knows when it’s his time and he knows when we have to do other things and he’s got to block for the other guys.”
For Gig Harbor (2-4, 1-3), the game followed the theme of the season for the Tides: It could have gone differently, but ultimately, it ended in a loss. Gig Harbor had several dropped passes in the first half — likely due in part to the steadily-pouring rain — which would have gone for first downs for the Tides.
Gig Harbor also came up empty twice in the red zone, turning the ball over on downs.
“We had a lot of drops,” said Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart. “I think we had six or seven in the first half. It just killed us. We couldn’t get anything going.”
Fairhart also said the team didn’t do well stopping Capital’s option offense.
“Their quarterback had a good night,” he said. “We got our butts kicked a little bit. We made too many mistakes.”
Capital finished last season with a 4-6 record. This year, with first-year head coach Terry Rose, the Cougars are on the rise, thanks in part to a deep and talented senior class. Erickson said he noticed the tone shift during summer conditioning.
“From the beginning of August, we’ve been running 400 meter sprints, and 100 meter sprints, and tempo runs,” Erickson said. “Coach Rose said from the beginning, ‘We’re going to be the team that’s in the best shape.’ And it’s true. You see it on the field. We’re in better shape than anyone. It wears people down.”
Rose said he’s been pleased with the buy-in from the players.
“We preach team, unity, family,” he said. “The biggest thing is we have a lot of fun. We play loose. I’m never going to come down on kids for making mistakes. We want to play full speed and don’t worry about making mistakes. Mistakes happen. We just play football. I think at the end of the day, the kids have embraced it, the excitement of it, we do it together.”
Is this a playoff team? The Cougars are certainly right in the thick of things, in a competitive and deep South Sound Conference.
“We’re really confident,” Erickson said. “We believe in each other, we believe in ourselves and that’s all that matters. We know what we can do and we’ve got the pieces to make a run. That’s our goal.”
C – Erickson run (Penner kick)
C – Collard 17 pass from Erickson (Penner kick)
C - Penner 80 pass from Erickson (2 pt failed)
GH - King 5 run (Kinney kick)
C - Grady run 57 (Penner kick)
C - Penner 3 pass from Erickson (Penner kick)