Sports

Olympic drops Seahawks

Jesse Beals/staff photo Olympic football coach Eric Allen celebrates with his players after the Trojans dumped defending league champs Peninsula 27-21 on Thursday. The Trojans had to come back from a 19-point deficit to earn the win. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Jesse Beals/staff photo Olympic football coach Eric Allen celebrates with his players after the Trojans dumped defending league champs Peninsula 27-21 on Thursday. The Trojans had to come back from a 19-point deficit to earn the win.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Olympic football, its seniors and its coach had been waiting three years for this moment.

After toiling through a one-win season two years ago, the Olympic Trojans (5-1, 3-0 in league), for the first time in a long time, are in first place following a 27-21 come-from-behind win against defending Olympic League champions Peninsula (4-2, 2-1) on Thursday at Silverdale Stadium.

“Our challenge, our goal tonight was simple,” Oly coach Eric Allen told an excited postgame huddle after the win. “Hard as hell, but 3-and-0.”

It’s easy to understand why Allen’s comments were followed by the most exuberant celebration Olympic has had since topping Central Kitsap in the Battle of Bucklin Hill to start the 2006 season. After all, this is what the program has been waiting for.

“This is the night I envisioned three years ago,” Allen said of when he took over the program. “It’s what we’ve been working for.”

The Trojans, who were last in first place in a three-way tie with North Kitsap and South Kitsap at 2-0 in Narrows League Bridge Division play in the 1999 season, ran to the win on the legs of sophomore sensation Larry Dixon, who carried the ball 27 times for 279 yards and three touchdowns, and on the tenacity of its defense, as the Trojans scored 25 unanswered points to rally back in the second half.

But Dixon said this night, while for the team, wasn’t for himself at all.

“It feels great,” said Dixon, who now has 1,107 yards and 9 scores this season. “This game we came in all really wanting to win. This game was really for our seniors. I dedicate this game fully to them.”

After all, it was the seniors who toiled through that 1-9 season as sophomores, only to improve to 5-5 last year. One such senior, Rashad Greene, said the transition the team has made in those years has been enormous.

“It’s a big transition,” Greene said. “We’ve gone from having only (a handful of) seniors on the team to 17 seniors on the team. With experience. We’re working hard to get the job done in every game.”

Greene helped fuel the comeback defensively, recording a blocked punt, one-and-a-half sacks and a safety in the game that was a tale of two halves.

Peninsula came out strong in a first half marred by turnovers on both sides. On Peninsula’s opening drive, following a first down by running back Brandon James, they suffered a false start penalty. Looking somewhat frazzled, the Seahawks had to call a timeout on the next play. After an incomplete pass, Peninsula still seemed out of sorts, calling another timeout just five seconds later. On the next play, Seahawk Brian Ellison fumbled a toss that Oly’s Joey Johnston recovered.

With momentum on their side, Oly seemed to have the upper hand. But quarterback Zach Bird’s opening pass on the drive was picked off by Peninsula’s Zach Moore on the Seahawk 1-yard line. Peninsula then drove 99 yards down field, with James crossing the goal line from a yard out for the game’s first score.

Another wasted offensive opportunity for the Trojans came on the ensuing drive. After driving 70 yards to the Peninsula 4-yard line, Greene, on a plow up the middle, got stopped just short of the goal line. In trying to push the ball over the line, he lost control and Peninsula’s Kasey Chakos recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Dixon also fumbled on the drive, but Oly recovered that drop.

Greene made up for that one, however, on the ensuing Peninsula possession when the Trojans forced the Seahawks into a punt from the 4-yard line. Greene got through and blocked it out the back of the end zone for a safety, making it 7-2 Seahawks.

Following suit with the first half, however, Bird threw another pick on the first play after the free kick.

Peninsula’s Al Rasmussen then scored to put Peninsula up 14-2, a score that would carry into halftime.

Despite four first-half turnovers, Allen said they didn’t change anything, or even say that much.

“I didn’t say a word. They knew,” he said. “We just talked about the fact you can’t beat a good football team, a championship team, with four turnovers.”

After Peninsula scored again when Rasmussen broke out 46 yards for a score on the Seahawks opening drive of the third quarter, the Trojans got the momentum they needed.

Trailing 21-2, Dixon broke out left up the sideline, aided by some big blocking, to run 76 yards for a score on Oly’s opening play.

“It does great stuff,” Dixon said of big-play momentum. “When the offense scores, the defense is pumped up. When the defense does something, the offense is pumped up.”

The Trojans scored again when Dixon broke out for a 16-yard scoring scamper at the start of the fourth quarter. The Jason Davidson extra point made it 21-15 Seahawks.

Behind much improved defensive pressure, Oly’s offense scored again when Dixon, for fear of sounding like a broken record, busted through a hole to right side for a 68-yard score, tying the game after Davidson PAT was blocked.

But perhaps the biggest defensive play came on the next Peninsula drive, when Greene sacked Peninsula quarterback Kyle Knowles on third-and-14, forcing the Seahawks to punt. Greene then scored on the next Oly drive from 4 yards out to go up for good at 27-21, a 19-point comeback effort.

Allen said the win was easily his biggest at Olympic.

“There’s now doubt about that,” Allen said. “Going back down 21-2, I don’t know if this might not be the biggest win I’ve been involved with.”

But again, the win was most special for the seniors.

“It means everything,” senior Tao Smith said. “It just feels so good to finally get over the top. We passed the first round of our league.”

Like Greene, Smith said the most noticeable difference in the team they were on as sophomores can’t be measured on the field.

“It’s hard coming up from our sophomore season and losing people that weren’t playing because of bad decisions.” Smith said. “We’re able to have people step up now and be excited for other players. That’s the major difference. Selfishness — there is none.”

Greene finished with 31 yards and a score in support of Dixon, while Nollan Quinn carried the ball seven times for 39 times for Oly. Rasmussen led the Seahawks with 189 yards and two scores on 16 carries. And while Bird had three of his first six pass attempts picked off, he wasn’t alone. Peninsula’s Knowles finished with two picks to Oly’s Blake Johnson, his ninth, and Johnston.

“It was a hard task,” Greene said. “They came out really hard. But beating them was our goal. We’ll see them again in three weeks. It’s gonna be a fight then too.”

While Olympic now controls its own destiny with three league games left, Allen said the focus is on nothing but Port Angeles, a team the Trojans beat 62-38 on the road two weeks ago.

“We talked all year about how every week we have a new challenge,” Allen said. “Our next challenge is 4-0. It has nothing to do with a league championship. Now we have to find a way to beat PA. They’re sure not gonna let us score 62 points again.”

Smith said the team isn’t too worried about getting big-headed and overlooking the Roughriders (1-4, 0-2), who Oly plays at 7 p.m. this Friday in the school’s homecoming game.

“Coach always tells us to stay right here,” he said, making a line in the air with his hand about eye level. “We’re able to do that. Last time we got too high, we had a losing season where we gave up a lot of games we should have won. We’ve just got to stay at the same level.”

But Olympic will certainly enjoy the win for now.

“I saw some joy out of these kids tonight, that is the reason why I coach,” Allen said. “Most folks don’t know the effort they put in. This is a feeling you can’t break, beg, borrow or steal.”

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