High School Sports

5 takeaways from Steilacoom’s rain-soaked win over Eatonville

Even during a downpour Friday night, Steilacoom High School flashed its high-flying offense. The Sentinels racked up more than 300 yards through the air, scoring each of their five touchdowns via the pass to cruise by Eatonville, 35-14.

Steilacoom (5-2) took a one-game lead over the Cruisers (4-3) in the Class 2A SPSL Mountain with the win, and could clinch an undefeated division title next week against River Ridge in Lacey.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

Chance McDonald has his pick of playmaking receivers

The junior quarterback, in his first season as Steilacoom’s starter, isn’t lacking options.

He has five-star junior Emeka Egbuka as one of his wideouts, and entered the game with three more receivers who already had triple-digit receiving yards for the season. And he added another to that list against the Cruisers.

McDonald connected with junior receiver Logan Brady nine times for 119 yards and four touchdowns. Brady averaged 13.2 yards per catch in a career-best game, slipped behind Eatonville’s secondary several times, and hauled in scoring passes of 6, 17, 27 and 5 yards.

“It’s a blessing to have that many guys and all of that talent in a receiving corps,” McDonald said. “I’m grateful for it every day I come to practice.”

Three of Brady’s four touchdown catches came in the first half, the third of which gave the Sentinels a 21-7 lead at the break. He ripped his fourth and final touchdown away from an Eatonville defender early in the third.

“It was kind of crazy,” Brady said. “It was really just Chance getting me opportunities. … It just shows how much faith he has in his his other teammates to spread the ball around that much and target all of those people.”

McDonald eclipsed 300 yards passing for the third time this season, completing 17-of-23 passes for 313 yards and the five touchdowns. He threw an interception in the fourth, but the Sentinels had a four touchdown lead at that point.

Steilacoom finished with 473 yards of total offense, also boosted by running back tandem Rasun Williams (14 carries, 99 yards) and De’Andre Napier (11 carries, 59 yards).

Stay tuned, and you’ll probably get a spectacular play from Egbuka

Egbuka was having an efficient, but relatively quiet night until the final minutes of the third quarter. He hauled in four of five targets for 49 yards, and drew away attention as Brady consistently burned the Cruisers’ defense.

But, there’s a reason Egbuka is considered the nation’s top athlete in the 2021 class, and the ninth-ranked player in the country overall. He again showed why against Eatonville.

With the Sentinels backed up to their own 1-yard line with less than two minutes to play in the quarter, and facing a third-and-10, Egbuka blew by his defender down the right sideline. McDonald threw up a perfect ball near midfield, Egbuka easily hauled it in, and created even more space as he sprinted toward the end zone for the 99-yard score.

“Chance has a ton of faith, stuck that ball out there and I was able to run up under it and make something happen,” Egbuka said.

Egbuka finished with five catches a game-high 148 yards and the long touchdown. He now has 158 catches in his career for 3,275 yards and 49 touchdowns — tying DeSales’ Chad Averill (49 receiving touchdowns from 1989-92) for sixth on the state’s all-time list.

He narrowed his list of college choices Wednesday afternoon to Washington, USC, Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State.

Eatonville’s possibilities are limitless with Caden Jumper

Here’s what you need to know about the 6-foot-3, 245-pound quarterback: He’s a gamer.

Jumper isn’t a natural quarterback, but the three-star recruit — who projects in college as a tight end or linebacker — is the Cruisers’ best athlete, and there are plenty of options with him handling every snap.

“That’s kind of the beauty of it,” Jumper said. “I have threats on the outside, Zach (Smith), Job (Kralik), (Kaden) Foster, Alex (Brymer), our running backs, we can throw all over the place.

“And then when they’re covered, it’s third-and-10, I can just kind of tuck it and run. It’s just kind of judgment calls. I’ve got lots of threats. Other teams should worry about that.”

Against the Sentinels, Jumper rushed 16 times for 128 yards and both of Eatonville’s touchdowns, and completed 8-of-14 passes for 120 yards while throwing one interception. He gave the Cruisers their only lead on 96-yard drive in the first quarter that lasted nearly seven minutes by punching in a 4-yard touchdown. He collected 56 rushing yards and 43 passing yards on that drive alone.

Late in the third quarter, Jumper was folded up by several defenders in the backfield and remained on the ground for several moments before eventually walking to the sideline on his own. He was further evaluated by medical personnel there, and said following the game he had some soreness in his neck and right Achilles, but he returned on Eatonville’s next offensive series and scored the game’s final touchdown.

He handed the ball off several times before eventually ripping his way to the edge, and scampering down the left sideline for a 30-yard score.

“We kind of needed a play or two to kind of get the momentum going back,” Jumper said. “We still had seven minutes of football left, so we needed to push through and finish hard.”

Jumper has 1,170 total yards — 574 rushing, 545 passing, 51 receiving — and 10 total touchdowns in six games played.

Steilacoom closing in on another undefeated division title

The Sentinels are one win away from sweeping their division for the third consecutive season.

They won 2A SPSL Sound titles each of the past two seasons — they lost to Fife in last season’s league title game — and with a victory over River Ridge next week on the road, Steilacoom can wrap up the 2A SPSL Mountain.

Steilacoom’s only losses this season are to defending 4A state champion Union (41-13 in Week 2) and last year’s 2A state runner-up Lynden (56-47 in Week 3).

“We’ve been having great weeks of preparation staying locked in at practice, and just staying true to our assignments and being able to execute,” Egbuka said. “The games you see that we haven’t won we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot. So, we’ve just got to control that a little bit.

“But, we’re going to keep this thing rolling and we’re looking to win a lot more games.”

If they make key plays and clean up some mistakes, the Cruisers are a legitimate playoff team

Had Eatonville not missed on a few key opportunities, and squandered a pair of drives into the red zone, the outcome could have been much less lopsided.

Jumper’s one interception in the first quarter, with the game tied at 7-7, came in the end zone, and Steilacoom answered with a 93-yard drive to take its first lead.

On their second drive of the second half, the Cruisers, trailing 28-7, were in position to cut into Steilacoom’s lead, eventually setting up for first-and-goal at the 8. But, four consecutive rushing plays led to minimal gains. Jumper was stopped on the 1 on fourth down. The Sentinels scored on Egbuka’s long touchdown moments later to make it 35-7.

“We had a few mistakes,” Jumper said. “We knew coming in playing against good teams, when you have those mistakes they will capitalize on it offensively and defensively. … It’s just little things. Little communication errors. So, we’re going to go to practice this week and we’re really going to focus on that.”

If the Cruisers do get the kinks worked out, they should be plenty competitive come November.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.