The week after its annual Fish Bowl game with crosstown rival Gig Harbor, the Peninsula High School football team had come out flat in the first half in the regular season finale against Capital, leading 10-7 going into the break against a Cougars squad which had already been eliminated from the playoffs, and was without its top playmaker in receiver and defensive back Chris Penner.
Coach Ross Filkins and his assistants were displeased, to say the least. With a Peninsula win and a Timberline win over Yelm, the Seahawks would be league champions in the Class 3A South Sound Conference.
“We went into halftime and we were pissed,” Filkins said. “We were just kind of going through the motions.”
So Filkins and the coaching staff laid into the team a bit in the locker room, when all of the sudden, someone’s cell phone rang. About half of the team laughed, unsure quite how to react. It seemed that mentally, not everyone was fully present.
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“We just lost it,” Filkins said. “We needed them to focus out the noise, focus out the distractions. Understand that they’re in a football game here. It’s an important game.”
If the first half was something of a Fish Bowl hangover, the second half was a Seahawks team coming out of its stupor. Peninsula scored 28 points in the third quarter and shut out the Cougars in the second half en route to a 45-7 to win.
And Timberline beat Yelm, 33-13, giving Peninsula the 3A SSC title. Peninsula and Timberline finished with identical 6-1 league records, but Peninsula had beaten Timberline earlier in the season, giving the Seahawks the head-to-head tie breaker.
“It says a lot about our team,” said Peninsula defensive lineman Khalif Spry. “It puts us as one of the top teams in the state. I feel like we can compete with anyone, after our first game, after Yelm, learning all those things from those games. I think we can compete with anybody in Washington. I think we can go all the way.”
The star of the show for Peninsula was linebacker Isaac Casey. In the third quarter, he intercepted a ball from Capital quarterback Grant Erickson and returned it for a touchdown. If that wasn’t quite good enough, on the next possession, he stripped the ball from the Capital running back and returned it for another touchdown.
“It was insane,” Casey said. “I was just playing the position, getting those opportunities and taking advantage of it.”
The back-to-back defensive touchdowns — from the same player, no less — seemed to galvanize the Seahawks. After that, there wasn’t any doubt who was winning Friday night’s game at Roy Anderson Field.
“He’s just been a great leader for us,” Filkins said of Casey. “I think he really owned it at halftime and stepped up and made some plays. He definitely earned it. We talk to these guys all the time about having fun, playing loose, playing free and going out and making a memory. He made some memories tonight.”
For Spry and the rest of the Peninsula defense, the energy was contagious, as the Peninsula defense dominated in the second half.
“It gives us motivation, energy, hope,” Spry said. “It makes us play stronger and come together as a unit. I was so hyped. Isaac deserves those, especially on his senior night. That’s great for him, his family, the fans and the team. It definitely helped us out on the late run.”
Peninsula quarterback Burke Griffin rushed for two of the team’s touchdowns in the game, while sophomore running back Landon Sims scored the game’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run.
While Peninsula wrapped up the league title in a deep and competitive SSC, the Seahawks don’t think they’re done yet.
“I need a ring,” Spry said.