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Issaquah puts lid on Cougars’ season
TACOMA — The Cougar-ella slipper has slipped off.
Central Kitsap’s bid for the school's first state football championship ended Saturday as the Cougars fell 31-13 against eighth-ranked Issaquah (11-2) in the Class 4A semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.
Coupled with Skyline's 24-21 victory against Ferris (11-2) in the other semifinal game, Friday night's championship will be a rematch of the regular-season game between the Spartans and Eagles, which Skyline won 38-0.
"It's about the perfect scenario," Issaquah quarterback Joey Bradley said, beaming, "Senior year, playing Skyline in the championship."
For CK (9-4), which few believed would advance beyond the Round of 16 after drawing then-No. 3 Olympia, Saturday’s loss marked the final chapter of a surprising postseason run that included upsets of the Bears, Snohomish and then-No. 9 Rogers.
"It was fun, anytime you make the semifinals it's not a bad year," running back Howie McDonald said, somberly. "Looking back at it we had our ups and downs and started peaking at the right time."
Most believed Saturday's game would be won on the ground — Issaquah running back Grant Gellatly and McDonald had combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing in three playoff games — but Bradley proved the difference, completing 13 of 18 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
McDonald was limited to 62 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries — he managed just 25 yards in the first half — and CK's passing game sputtered.
"They did a better job than us up front and I think that made a big difference," CK coach Mark Keel said.
Bradley connected with Ross Zuhl on a 12-yard pass to put the Eagles up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game, capping a six-play, 28-yard drive that began after CK failed to corral the opening kickoff, a Gavin Schumaker pooch.
Dustin Talley then polished off a 12-play, 82-yard drive, which was prolonged by a pass interference call against CK deep in Cougar territory,
with a 2-yard plunge to make it 14-0 at the 7:53 mark of the second quarter.
Down two scores, Central Kitsap whittled the lead to 14-7 before halftime when quarterback Jason Simonis, who finished 6 of 11 for 101 yards, hit Christian Wesley on a deep play-action pass.
The Simonis-Wesley connection was CK's longest play from scrimmage and by far Simonis' best looking pass.
"We weren't getting a whole bunch of time to throw the football," Keel said.
A 20-yard Bradley to Gellatly connection on a long third-and-goal in the waning seconds of the first half gave Issaquah a 21-7 halftime lead. On that play, the Cougars blitzed off the right side but failed to reach Bradley, who lofted a pass over the CK secondary toward the sideline where Gallatly ran under the ball, reeled it in and trotted untouched to the end zone.
"You can't let that get to you," McDonald said of the play, giving Issaquah momentum before the break. "We should have just stepped up as a team."
The Eagles increased their lead to 24-7 midway through the third on a 38-yard Schumaker field goal.
But one play after Allen Hewey made a miracle 35-yard catch off a tipped ball on fourth-and-long to put the ball at Issaquah's 2, the Cougars crawled within 24-13 before the fourth quarter.
"Once that happened, we said we couldn't let it affect us," Bradley said.
Brennan Miller thwarted the comeback bid with an interception on CK's ensuing drive, retuning it 29 yards to the Cougar 4. That set up a Bradley sneak to push the lead to 31-13.
Neither team scored again, with the Eagles draining the clock on the feet of Gallatly and Talley.
"It's the last time playing with the fellas," McDonald said after finally emerging from the locker room. "You grow up your whole life with them, you care for them so much."
The Eagles limited Central Kitsap to 179 yards in total offense, wreaking havoc against the Cougars' usually dominant offensive line. Issaquah had given up 28 points in each of its two previous playoff games, both 31-28 victories.
"I thought it was our best (defensive) game in four weeks," Bennett said. "We've given up some yardage, but we've given it up to some pretty good teams."
Keel said CK should be proud of how far it advanced despite falling a game shy of the championship. The Cougars won seven consecutive games to reach the semifinals.
"Now, finally it's a relief. They can sit back and enjoy what they've done," Keel said. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, we played hard. Everything we've gotten, we deserved."
The team graduates 26 seniors including McDonald and Simonis, but a few key players will return, Howie's brother, Brett, being one of them.
"I told (Brett) to lead his team to victory," Howie said, "to take them back here because they know what it tastes like."
The 4A championship game was originally scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, but was rescheduled to 7:30 p.m. Friday due to the Bellevue football team's bus crash.
Issaquah 7 14 3 7 — 31
Central Kitsap 0 7 6 0 — 13
Issaquah — Ross Zuhl 12 pass from Joey Bradley (Gavin Schumaker kick)
Issaquah — Dustin Talley 2 run (Schumaker kick)
Central Kitsap — Christian Wesley 49 pass from Jason Simonis (Christian Berg kick)
Issaquah — Grant Gellatly 20 pass from Bradley (Schumaker kick)
Issaquah — Schumaker 38 field goal
Central Kitsap — Howard McDonald 2 run (kick blocked)
Issaquah — Bradley 1 run (Schumaker kick)
RUSHING — Issaquah: Grant Gellatly, 22-62; Dustin Talley 9-29; Kyle Hansen, 2-6; Joey Bradley 5-1, Ross Zuhl 1-(minus 1), Team 1-(minus 2). Central Kitsap: Howard McDonald, 18-62; H'arion Gaulden, 5-22; Team 1-(minus 2); Jason Simonis, 2-(minus 4).
PASSING — Issaquah: Joey Bradley, 13-18-181-0. Central Kitsap: Jason Simonis, 6-11-101-1.
RECEIVING — Issaquah: Ross Zuhl, 4-66; Grant Gellatly 3-51; Sean Stuby, 1-27; Brennan Miller, 2-22; Evan Peterson, 2-15; Adam Dondoyano, 1-0. Central Kitsap: Christian Wesley, 2-49; Allen Hewey, 1-35; Cameron Anthony, 1-20; Howard McDonald, 1-2; Cameron Salley, 1-(minus 5).