Playoff scenarios for the Shelton Highclimbers were so twisty as to make your head hurt coming into their 3A Narrows League regular-season finale Friday at Highclimber Stadium.
It was much simpler for the Capital Cougars: win or be done.
The Cougars took care of the only thing they could control, downing Shelton, 31-0, and then both teams waited for news from other games in other stadiums.
For Capital, the news was good. The Cougars’ win (by more than six points), coupled with Wilson’s win over Central Kitsap, allows Capital (4-5 overall, 4-3 Narrows) to power into the playoffs after a 1-5 start to the season.
Shelton, not so good. In a nutshell, the Highclimbers needed to beat Capital or lose by less than six points to get in the postseason. Shelton finished its season at 5-4, 4-3 in Narrows play.
Capital advances as the No. 4 Narrows seed and will play Columbia River next weekend in Vancouver.
“Never stop believing,” Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
The return of senior quarterback Cody Jenkins after missing six games was big, Johnson said. Friday, Jenkins was 6-for-13 passing for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cougars defense limited Shelton to 106 total yards. Capital took a 21-0 halftime lead and never let Shelton back in the game as a steady rain fell through the second half.
“They played on the same field we did, I’m pretty sure,” Shelton coach Matt Hinkle said. “Capital controlled the line of scrimmage, on offense and defense. They executed and we didn’t.”
Dexter Morton powered out of a scrum at the line of scrimmage, suddenly found himself in open space and 37 yards later found the end zone as the Cougars opened the scoring on their second possession of the game. Senior Willie Broxton Jr. carried four times for 36 yards in the seven-play, 80-yard drive.
Broxton finished with 110 yards on 24 carries.
It was 14-0 Capital midway through the second quarter when junior wideout Chase Martin broke open on a slant pattern, took the pass from Jenkins in stride and ran untouched for a 37-yard score.
Martin, playing defensive back, figured in the play that set up Capital’s third TD of the first half. Martin knocked Tyler Giraldes’s pass away from the receiver and the ball landed in the arms of teammate Zach Smith, who returned it to the Shelton 9. Two plays later, Smith caught an 11-yard pass from Jenkins in the back of the end zone.
The rain, which began as the second half started, made passing difficult and put a crimp in Shelton’s comeback plans.
Capital failed to cash in on junior defensive lineman David Ainuu’s interception of Giraldes at the Shelton 15 late in the third quarter. But on their next possession, just inside the fourth quarter, the Cougars took advantage of a short field after a failed fake punt, eventually getting a five-yard TD run from Broxton Jr. for a 28-0 lead.
Van Soderberg, perfect on four extra-point kicks, closed the scoring with a 35-yard field goal after a Cougars foray inside Highclimbers territory stalled on a sack of Jenkins by Shelton’s Colton Paller and Hayden Pyle.