The beauty — and the agony —of playoff football is one team moves on, and one team sees its season come to an end.
It was the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles who lived to play another game, beating the Monroe Bearcats, 42-17, at Art Crate Field on Friday in a game that was harder fought than the score suggests.
The Eagles (9-1) will take on the Narrows League 4A champion Gig Harbor Tides in the state playoffs, while the Bearcats are left to wonder what could have been.
“Monroe played hard. They got after it. Their kids played with intensity, and we had to match that,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle said. “Now, we’ve just got to keep playing better every week. Everybody’s going to get better and tougher. We’ve got some great teams coming up.”
The Eagles did many of the things that carried the team for much of the season – strong offensive line play, tough running, and timely passing from quarterback Trevor Asbjornsen.
Senior Shannon Edwards was particularly effective, finishing with 151 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. Edwards’ 32-yard touchdown scamper down the sideline with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter effectively sealed the game for Graham-Kapowsin.
Facing a powerful Graham-Kapowsin team that finished second in the SPSL South Division, injuries for Monroe turned what could have been a competitive contest into clear mismatch.
Bearcats freshman quarterback Kainalu Batongbacal was given a particularly tall task, making his first varsity start in his team’s biggest game of the season.
Filling in for sophomore Zach Zimmerman, who was injured in practice during the week and watched from the sideline, Batongbacal’s night certainly had its moments – including a gorgeous 84-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Shanden Mixayphone down the visitors’ sideline in the first quarter.
“I’m just proud of them,” first-year Monroe coach Brett Jay said of his team. “We play this game to learn something about ourselves, and to grow as men, and we did that. … This is the best game there is. It puts you in tough situations that you have to overcome, and we overcame a lot of adversity this year, and never blinked an eye.”