Sports

OLY LEAGUE CHAMPS

Oly players, led by coach Eric Allen, hold up their index fingers after winning the league title Friday.  - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Oly players, led by coach Eric Allen, hold up their index fingers after winning the league title Friday.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

PURDY — “Who would have ever thought?” Olympic football coach Eric Allen yelled as defensive coordinator Tim Allbee lifted him from the ground.

The rhetorical question could not have been more poignant as players cheered, jumping all over the field; as fans yelled their support, waiting more than two decades for this moment; as the rest of his staff stood awestruck, half smiling, half in disbelief.

On Friday, Olympic (8-1, 6-0) topped Peninsula 22-17 at Roy Anderson Field to capture the Olympic League title, the Trojans’ first football crown in 21 years.

“Two years ago, our seniors were 1-9,” junior Garrett Brown said. “Then 5-5.

“Now, we’re league champs.”

Brown, with a cast enveloping his left arm from his knuckles to his elbow, proved only one good arm is necessary for football, scoring once on an interception return and again on a fumble recovery as the Trojans edged the Seahawks on their home turf.

“It feels awesome,” Brown said of the win. “It’s totally different. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve got goosebumps popping up right now.”

The sentiment was shared as Oly won its first league crown since 1986.

“Unbelievable.” Allen said. “I’m so proud of everybody. The kids, the coaches, the school.”

The game was as tough as advertised, as last year’s league champions Peninsula wanted badly to win, in turn forcing a tie for the league crown. While the win secured the title outright for Oly, a coin flip last Tuesday already determined the Trojans would hold the No. 1 seed out of the Oly League.

The win means Olympic will host its state preliminary game with Camas (6-3, 4-1), which finished No. 2 in the Greater St. Helens League.

In Friday’s game, the Trojans looked like they were going to run away with it, with Rashad Greene capping a four-and-a-half-minute, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

On the ensuing possession, Peninsula started driving from its own 19, picking up 3 yards on two running plays when sophomore quarterback JR Grosshans, pressed by a good pass rush, fired a pass prematurely, appearing to never even see Brown.

Cast and all, Brown somehow held on to the ball, racing 20 yards to put Oly up 14-0 less than half way through the first quarter.

“I was just thinking, ‘How’d that happen?’” Brown said of the pick.

The tough defense continued for Oly, while Peninsula picked it up on its end. The only other score in the first half came when Peninsula’s Matt Johnson hit a 32-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

“We just ran our base,” Brown said of Oly’s defense. “We have a good defense.”

Peninsula finally found the end zone with about four minutes left in the third quarter when Al Rasmussen, the Seahawks’ rushing leader with 70 yards on 20 carries, found pay dirt from a yard out. Peninsula could not convert the 2-point conversation however as Grosshans got hit and fumbled out of bounds, making it 14-9 Oly.

Peninsula threatened in the fourth quarter, driving 47 yards to the Olympic 12-yard line. Dropping back to pass again, Grosshans got pressured and hit hard by Greene, forcing a fumble that brown scooped up and ran 80 yards for what would be the clinching touchdown.

When Allen saw the play, he said he nearly tackled his energetic linebacker.

“I almost ran on the field and tackled him. We always teach the kids not to pick the football up,” Allen said smiling, adding that his players are taught to typically cover up a fumble. “But we knew once he started to go that they wouldn’t catch him.”

Peninsula would score again, however, to cut the lead to 20-17, this time converting the 2-point attempt.

The Seahawks got the ball back with a little more than a minute left on the clock. After two incompletions, Grosshans, who shared quarterbacking duties with Kyle Knowles throughout the game, got sacked by Trojan Shane Galeski, driving the Seahawks back to their own 3-yard line. Greene then rushed again, sacking Grosshans for the safety with 20 seconds to play, and more importantly, locking up the Olympic League title.

“That’s what I was telling these guys,” Allen said. “That’s the sign of a championship football team. We scored points on returns, interceptions — whatever. Whatever we’ve needed to get it done to win, someone gets it done.”

While Oly’s Larry Dixon had been dominating the league — and Seahawks, as evidenced by his 279-yard, 3-touchdown performance in the teams’ first battle — he was held to just 40 yards on 23 carries this time around. Greene ended up with seven carries for 16 yards. Quarterback Zach Bird, whose scrambling avoided at least three Peninsula sacks in the game, finished 7-of-9 passing for 86 yards.

For Allen, who took over Olympic as a struggling program three years ago, the moment was what he had dreamed for.

“You hope,” he said. “When you get a group of seniors like we have, as leaders of these young kids — the sophomores need leadership and they get it from those kids. Those kids have stuck with it for three years now.”

Calling it the biggest game he’s coached, Allen said everyone at Oly can hold their heads up high.

“It’s the biggest, without a doubt,” Allen said. “Any time you win a league championship in only three years, it’s a big sense of accomplishment. But we never would have done it without great kids and great assistant coaches. We have both.”

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