Peninsula beat Yelm at Roy Anderson Field on Friday night, 31-28 in a matchup of the two top teams in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. Here are five takeaways from the Seahawks’ big win.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER TITLE HUNT
There are few programs around the state can match the consistency of longtime coach Ross Filkins’ Seahawks. Year in and year out, Peninsula is contending for league championships, and with Friday night’s win over Yelm, this year is no different. Peninsula never has four and five star recruits, but no coach gets more out of his players than Filkins does. Count on Peninsula to have a strong running game and defense every year, thanks to a system in place that runs like a well-oiled machine. The players are different from year to year, but the results are the same. It’s a testament to the winning culture Filkins has created at Peninsula.
“We’re not the biggest or the best but we just play every play and do our jobs,” said linebacker Nolan Casey.
With Friday night’s win, Peninsula is in the driver’s seat for the 3A SSC title, but doesn’t have it wrapped up yet, as the Seahawks still have next week’s Fish Bowl rivalry game against Gig Harbor and the regular season finale against Capital. But the biggest hurdle so far has been cleared, and now Peninsula has the head-to-head win over Yelm.
ALL ABOUT THE BALL
With Yelm marching down the field with under two minutes to go in the game, junior Sean Skladany stripped the ball from Yelm quarterback Ben Hoffman and teammate Chase Wittmers recovered the fumble to seal the win for the Seahawks.
“I just saw a big play needed to happen, so I saw they were going to pass the ball and just went out there and made a play,” Skladany said. “It was huge. They’re a great team. At the end of the day, turnovers win games.”
And Peninsula won the turnover battle, 3-2, which drew plenty of enthusiasm from Filkins while addressing his team after the game.
“We knew it’d be critical in this game,” Filkins said. “When you play a really good team in this kind of environment with this much on the line, it’s all about the ball and that showed tonight.”
PENINSULA’S RUNNING GAME IS STRONG
There’s one thing you can be sure of with a Filkins coached team: The Seahawks are going to run the football, and dare you to stop them. This year’s team is led by junior Sean Skladany, a bruising, 6-foot-2, 212 pound back who runs with speed and power. Skladany rushed 10 times for two touchdowns and 100 yards in the win.
The star of the show at running back for the Seahawks on Friday night was Shawn Leonard, more of a shifty back, who rushed 24 times for 168 yards. Landon Sims added 36 yards on six carries and a touchdown. In total, Peninsula racked up 298 yards on the ground.
The different looks Peninsula was able to throw at Yelm in the running game kept the Tornado off balance.
“It makes it hard for teams to prepare,” Skladany said. “They don’t know what running back is going to go off that game.”
Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo said it’s difficult to game plan against Peninsula.
“They’re tough to prepare for,” he said. “They’ve got a dozen different formations and three or four different running backs that can all run it well.”
HOFFMAN CAN DO IT ALL FOR YELM
Yelm quarterback Ben Hoffman shined in the running game for Yelm, rushing 13 times for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That running ability makes the Yelm offense difficult to slow down at times.
“He’s a gamer,” Ronquillo said. “He makes plays with his feet that other quarterbacks just don’t make and he finds the end zone. He played well for us out there. I’m really proud of him.”
Running back Carson Amendt added 16 runs for 75 yards and a touchdown.
PLENTY ON THE LINE IN FISH BOWL
Next week’s Fish Bowl crosstown rivalry game between Peninsula and Gig Harbor should be a fun one, with Peninsula going into the game undefeated in league play and Gig Harbor’s only loss this season coming to Yelm.
And by the way, Peninsula coach Ross Filkins has heard the talk about the 3A SSC being weaker this year, and he’s not buying it.
“I think the South Sound Conference, particularly (Peninsula, Yelm and Gig Harbor), are better than people around the state realize,” Filkins said. “It’s bugging me a little bit. You saw what the South Sound Conference did last year. We had three teams in the (state) quarterfinals. There’s some quality programs here and some good coaching staffs and some good, tough communities. I think whoever comes out of the South Sound Conference is going to represent us very well.”
That means Peninsula’s game against Gig Harbor should be no walk in the park, with the Tides still in contention for the league title, too.
“We’re rolling right now,” Casey said. “The defense is playing great. (Peninsula quarterback Peyton) Bice has made such a big improvement from the beginning of the season to now. Phenomenal. The growth is amazing. Hats off to Bice. (Gig Harbor) is a rival team so we’re ready to beat them.”