As the rain crashed down at Highline Memorial Stadium, the Kennedy Catholic High School offense did something it has rarely done this season — run the ball.
The Lancers (6-3) entered Saturday night’s 4A NPSL showdown against Kentridge ranked 12th in the league in rushing, averaging a modest 113.1 yards per game.
Known more for its high-flying passing attack — the Lancers are averaging a league-leading 440.8 yards per game through the air — Kennedy gave a packed stadium a different look against the Chargers.
The Lancers combined for seven rushing touchdowns and 433 yards on the ground as they topped Kentridge, 68-41, in a loser-out game to advance to the Week 10 district playoffs.
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Kennedy will travel to meet fourth-ranked Puyallup (8-1) on Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“We just prepared to do anything to win the game,” said Lancers running Justin Baker, who is typically used as a receiver. “We just went out there. We have a good run game. ... We just did everything we could to help our team.”
Baker rushed for a game-high 198 yards on 15 carries, scoring twice on runs of 54 and 4 yards. He added a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, had 24 receiving yards on one catch, and racked up more than 300 all-purpose yards.
“Usually I play receiver, and we knew we were going to be running this game. ... I was excited. It was fun,” Baker said.
Zaire Lozolo nearly matched Baker, rushing for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts. He rushed for scores of 1, 1 and 13 yards.
Jahvius Leui added a 1-yard rushing touchdown to open Kennedy’s scoring in the first quarter, and finished with six carries for 33 yards.
And wide receiver Jabez Tinae took a direct snap in for a 4-yard touchdown on his only carry. He also had 90 receiving yards on four catches.
“Our running backs, all three of them — Jahvius, Justin and Zaire — they all played great,” Lancers quarterback Sam Huard said. “If teams want to play that defense against us, and drop that many, we’re going to run the ball.
“I honestly had fun today just handing the ball off and watching them do their thing.”
Huard, who is the state’s leading passer with more than 3,600 yards through nine games, had a limited number of attempts in the damp conditions — he finished 6 of 11 passing for 118 yards and tossed a 54-yard touchdown to Jabez Tinae — but was glad to see the Lancers’ rushing attack flourish.
“It was fun,” he said. “We still put up a lot of points running the ball, and I’m just happy we got the win. It wasn’t what we expected, but we adjusted and were able to run the ball really well.”
Kentridge grabbed an early lead on the first of Jaron Gonzalez’s two rushing touchdowns, a 10-yard scamper in the first quarter.
After Kennedy answered with a pair of scoring drives, the Chargers scored on three consecutive possessions. Quarterback Natano Woods scored both of his touchdowns on runs of 14 and 1 yards, and Payton Thomas hit Louie Albrecht on a 62-yard double pass.
Kennedy evened the score at 28-28 at the half, and scored on five straight possessions between the second and third quarters to take the lead for good.
Marshall Hatfield scored what proved to be the decisive touchdown for the Lancers when he fell on a teammate’s fumble in the end zone on the opening drive of the second half.
That touchdown was the first of three scores in 30 seconds, which included a 74-yard run by Gonzalez on the first play of Kentridge’s next possession, and Baker’s kickoff return.
The Lancers scored on six consecutive possessions to open the second half, including five unanswered after Gonzalez’s long run, before Jeremy Banks hauled in an 11-yard pass from Woods with less than four minutes to play to cap scoring.
Woods finished 15 of 24 passing for 145 yards, added 99 yards on 26 carries, and scored the three total touchdowns.
The rain subsided as the three-hour game concluded, and Kennedy celebrated the district playoff berth it missed out on a season ago.
“I’m really pumped,” Huard said. “Last year was kind of a learning year. We really grew last year, but this offseason we really put in a lot of work, and we’re ready.
“We’re not really looking at who we’re playing. Every week is now going to be a tough opponent. We feel like if we just do our job, and do the things we need to do like we did tonight, we should be successful no matter who we play.”
Though, next week’s opponent does carry significance for the sophomore signal-caller. Huard’s father Damon and uncles Brock and Luke all played for their father Mike Huard when he coached at Puyallup.
“I’m excited to play in that environment, that stadium where obviously my family has a lot of history,” Huard said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s just another team we have to play, and we’re going to prepare for them.”
K – Jaron Gonzalez 10 run (Elijah Mang kick)
KC – Jahvius Leui 1 run (kick failed)
KC – Zaire Lozolo 1 run (Justin Baker pass from Sam Huard)
K – Natano Woods 14 run (Mang kick)
K – Louie Albrecht 62 pass from Payton Thomas (Mang kick)
K – Woods 1 run (Mang kick)
KC – Baker 54 run (Leui run)
KC – Lozolo 1 run (pass failed)
KC – Marshall Hatfield 1 fumble recovery (Junior Alexander pass from Huard)
K – Gonzalez 74 run (Mang kick)
KC – Baker 78 kickoff return (pass failed)
KC – Jabez Tinae 54 pass from Huard (pass failed)
KC – Tinae 4 run (pass failed)
KC – Lozolo 13 run (pass failed)
KC – Baker 4 run (Baker run)
K – Jeremy Banks 11 pass from Woods (kick failed)
Passing: K – Woods 15-24-0-145; Thomas 1-1-0-62. KC – Huard 6-11-0-118.
Rushing: K – Gonzalez 19-122; Woods 26-99; Banks 1-13; Thomas 1-9. KC – Baker 15-198; Lozolo 22-197; Leui 6-33; Ethan Rhoads 3-11; Tinae 1-4; Huard 1-(-5); Michael Lee 1-(-5).
Receiving: K – Albrecht 1-62; Thomas 6-62; Michael Faber 1-36; Banks 6-31; Davis Arbini 2-16. KC – Tinae 4-90; Baker 1-24; Alexander 1-4.