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Central Kitsap hands Olympia its first loss, moves to state quarterfinals | Prep Football
OLYMPIA -- It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Olympia was supposed to handle Central Kitsap on the gridiron on Saturday night at Ingersoll Stadium, the Bears’ home field. The Bears’ defense, which had allowed just 55 points all season coming into the game, was supposed to shut down a Cougar offense that had been rolling. Likewise, the Oly offense was supposed to run amok on CK’s “D.”
It just seems no one told that to CK.
Central Kitsap pounded out a tough 14-10 victory against the previously undefeated Bears before a packed house Saturday, earning CK (8-3) a spot in the state quarterfinals and the school’s second state win in school history and first since a 7-6 victory at Shelton in 1973, the state tourney’s debut season.
“It feels amazing,” Cougar lineman Conner Cheser said. “That’s all I can say about something like that. I’m still like, ‘Pinch me. I’m dreaming.’”
The victory not only ended the No. 3-ranked team in the state’s season, but also gives Central Kitsap a home game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Rogers (of Puyallup; 10-1), a 55-30 winner against Vancouver’s Skyview, at Silverdale Stadium.
“It’s so special,” senior running back H’arion Gaulden said. “Last year we made it all the way here. This year, we’re focused. We’re ready to go. We wanted it, we tasted it. Now, we get a home game to take it to ‘em.”
Lost in the hype surrounding the Bears (10-1) and their 38 returning seniors from a team that advanced to state was the fact that CK too returned 26 seniors from a team that advanced to state. Those seniors, who went 3-7 as sophomores in the 2006-07 season, are who coach Mark Keel said deserved the win as much as, if not more, than anyone.
“It feels great. I feel happiest for those guys in here,” Keel said, pointing to the locker room moments after Saturday night’s win. “Those guys, these seniors came through a 3-7 season. And this is what they turned it into.”
Central Kitsap never let Olympia’s offense really click, as the game revealed itself as a defensive battle early on as both teams saw their first drives end with interceptions (the first two Oly drives ended with picks).
It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that points were even posted, with Olympia’s Sam Bingaman nailing a 31-yard field goal. The 3-0 difference would hold into halftime.
CK got the second half going with a bang however, as Gaulden, who appeared to bobble the opening kickoff not once, but twice, held on to the ball and broke up field for a 94-yard kick return touchdown. That put CK up 7-3 following Christian Berg’s successful point-after attempt.
“I was like, ‘As soon as I get this, I’m going. Nobody is going to touch me,’” Gaulden said of the play. “My dad always told me, ‘Special teams can boost you guys.’”
Two drives later, Olympia got a big play of its own when quarterback Willie Willard connected with wide receiver Numia Magalei across the middle for a 68-yard scoring strike.
With the Bears up 10-7, it seemed Oly would build an even larger lead. On CK’s ensuing drive, senior quarterback Jason Simonis was blindsided on a blitz by Oly’s Griffin Broudia , fumbling the ball in the process. Olympia’s Andrew Lankow recovered the fumble and sprinted more than 50 yards into the end zone. But while the Bears were celebrating a larger lead, CK was lining up on defense. A big block-in-the-back penalty brought the ball back to midfield. Soon after, the Bears’ drive would end with Bingamin sending a 31-yard field goal attempt wide left.
That miss put pressure on the Bears to increase their lead, as Oly went for it on fourth down and seven to go on the CK 32-yard line. After Willard’s pass sailed incomplete, CK seemed to be stifled before it could even get started on the ensuing drive.
On the very first play, McDonald, who finished with 30 carries for 132 yards, busted a 21-yard gain to the left side after it seemed no holes would open. A big holding call on CK called it all the way back however, forcing the Cougs into a first-and-22 on their own 20. So what did McDonald do? He took the next handoff 22 yards to keep CK moving.
“We just talked about beating them up front,” Keel said of his line’s ability to open holes against the Bears’ stingy defense. “That’s what we needed to do to win this football game.
“That, coupled with Howie McDonald in the backfield… I figured we’d be all right.”
CK used the next five minutes of clock, alternating between McDonald and Gaulden with some big passes from Simonis to wideout Christian Wesley mixed in. CK capped the drive with a McDonald 3-yard touchdown to go up 14-10.
“God it feels good,” McDonald said after the win. “We were down, we came back and won. I can’t really even talk right now.”
Olympia began a march back down field, including converting a fourth-and-less-than-a-yard deep in its own territory. But facing fourth-and-4 on their own 38-yard line, CK linebacker Marcus D’Angelo made a great diving play to break up a pass from Willard intended for Oly running back Dylan Parsons, who had a hand on the ball initially. With that turnover on downs, all CK needed to do was run out the clock, which they did with two first downs before time ticked down.
“It’s emotional,” senior Kyle Kunkel, who had one of CK’s picks, said. “It’s crazy. It’s amazing. These guys are all my brothers. It’s just sweet.”
CK rushed the field in jubilation, smiles, hoops, hollers and tears of joy showing alike.
With the defenses both playing well, Gaulden said CK was more than happy to walk away with the win.
“They were hitting,” he said. “I knew our defense was hitting too, but they were too.”
“Defense, it’s a will thing,” McDonald added. “Our defense stepped up tonight. (CK linebacker) Richie Meier, he’s the man.”
While CK’s defensive held up and kept Oly off rhythm (Willard completed just 5 of 15 passes for 83 yards and two picks), McDonald said wearing down Olympia’s defense, which had allowed just 5.5 points per game coming in, was just as key.
“I think we started wearing down that defense,” he said. “They were stingy all night. I just think we had more heart. It showed in the fourth quarter.”
Again, that all came back to the offensive line, which seemingly got more push in the fourth quarter than any other time in the game.
“It’s all about the big guys up there,” McDonald said, pointing to players like Cheser, Spencer Williams, Justin Williams, Vern Hemphill and others. “They’re the workhorse of the offense.”
Cheser reiterated the team’s heart, saying CK was even more motivated after senior tight end Cameron Salley went out with a concussion in the third quarter.
“(It was) just heart,” Cheser said. “After ‘Sal’ went out with a concussion, that did it. It was on the line. We just decided to get after it.”
Even with the realization that not only seasons, but careers, could come to an end, McDonald said the team never let itself doubt a victory.
“We’re looking forward to it,” he said of the game. “We were telling each other before the game, ‘This won’t be the last time we play together.’”
For McDonald, the moment was even more special playing alongside younger brother Brett, a CK sophomore who had the first interception of the game.
“My brother, he’s my hero,” McDonald said. “He’s so intense out there. I know I’m a big brother, but I try to emulate him. I love him to death, that’s for sure.”
Now, with home-field advantage against Rogers (10-1), CK has its collective eyes on one more prize: a state trophy.
“It’s gonna be exciting to play in front of the home crowd,” McDonald said. “It’s gonna be huge.”
But Keel said the Cougars can’t stop working.
“We’ve got to focus on getting better and staying focused,” Keel said. “With all these seniors, we’ve learned how to practice. We can go out and get the work done we need to get done.”
Asked if this was the biggest win of his 10-year CK career, Keel’s answer was simple.
“Yeah,” he said. “So far.”
Quarterback Jason Simonis made it clear who his favorite target continues to be, hooking up with wide receiver Christian Wesley for five of his eight completions, good for 81 of his 84 yards passing in the game … Dylon Parsons had a strong game for Olympia, rushing 22 times for 110 yards … Olympia muffed two punts (one on a fair catch) but were able to recover both … Penalties ran high at times, with CK logging five (one negating a 21-yard gain) and Olympia racking up nine (including the touchdown negater) … In addition to his big return, CK’s H’arion Gaulden rushed eight times for 30 yards … Take away Oly quarterback Willie Willard’s 68-yard scoring strike and he finished just 4-of-14 for 15 yards and two picks.
CENTRAL KITSAP 14, at OLYMPIA 10
Central Kitsap 0 0 7 7 - 14
Olympia 0 3 7 0 - 10
Rushing – CK: Howie McDonald 30-132, H'Arion Gaulden 8-30. O: Dylan Parsons 22-110, Garett Hall 3-2, Jordan Pine 3-9, Willie Willard 2-15, Dan Conklin 2-8.
Passing - CK: Jason Simonis 8-16-1-84. O: Willard 5-15-2-83.
Receiving - CK: Christian Wesley 5-81, Gaulden 1-1, McDonald 1-(-3), Cameron Salley 1-4. O: Numia Magalei 2-69, Parsons 2-7, Kramer Skidmore 1-7.