CK defense shoulders load against Lions

Central Kitsap quarterback Jason Simonis fired this first-quarter pass under pressure from Bellarmine for a 63-yard connection to wideout Christian Wesley. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Central Kitsap quarterback Jason Simonis fired this first-quarter pass under pressure from Bellarmine for a 63-yard connection to wideout Christian Wesley.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

After heading into the half facing a 3-0 deficit against Narrows League Bay Division rivals Bellarmine, members of Central Kitsap’s football team had a challenge for the offensive line.

“We questioned the linemen,” CK running back Howard McDonald said. “It was up to them and they did their job in the second half.”

“Well, first off we challenged our offensive line and the way they were playing in the first half,” CK coach Mark Keel added. “I think those guys accepted the challenge and started blocking a lot better.”

The result was three second-half touchdowns and a 21-3 victory, keeping CK in great position at the season’s midpoint.

“It feels great just to come back and win,” McDonald said. “Last week was disappointing. This week, we didn’t start so hot, but we always come on strong.”

That trend was in full affect Friday at Silverdale Stadium, as the visiting Lions (3-2, 1-1 in Bay Division play) brought their high-octane passing attack to town to challenge CK (3-2, 1-1).

It appeared CK would strike first, but the first of a many key turnovers in the game put a stop to a goal-line appearance by the Cougars. After CK quarterback Jason Simonis nailed sophomore wideout Christian Wesley for a 63-yard gain, the Cougs let McDonald pound the ball down to the 3-yard line. But facing fourth-and-goal on the 3, Simonis’ pass was picked off by Bellarmine, one of two picks thrown by Simonis in the game.

The teams exchanged possessions until the closing seconds on the first half, when Bellarmine kicker Isaiah Summers hit a 31-yard field goal to give the Lions the 3-0 edge.

After Simonis was picked on CK’s opening drive in the third quarter, the Cougars stopped Bellarmine’s ensuing drive and capped a 57-yard drive with a 6-yard run from McDonald.

“Well, it was really big for us,” Keel said of that score. “Just being able to come out and score that first touchdown, go ahead, then stall a little bit but come out and get going at the end, I think this did more for us than if we came out and won 7-3.”

Following the score things got interesting.

After CK’s Richie Meier picked off a pass from Bellarmine quarterback Lucas Schindele, McDonald fumbled away the first play of CK’s following drive. Two plays later, Schindele threw another pick, this time to CK’s Glen Hewey.

CK had to punt on that drive, which ended the third and carried over into the fourth quarter. On the Lions next drive however, CK lineman Cecil Spence, who was OK after suffering an apparent left knee injury earlier in the game, was able to recover a Lions fumble. CK had to punt again, but Schindele was intercepted again by Hewey, this time setting up a drive from Bellarmine’s own 36-yard line. Simonis capped that drive with a 1-yard

score on the keeper to put CK up 14-3 with about 4 minutes left. McDonald set the play up with a hard-nosed 18-yard run that left five Lions lying in his wake.

“My team is gonna give it their all, so I’ve got to give it my all,” McDonald said of his 166-yard effort. “It’s all about them.”

The defense wasn’t done, however, as both Meier and lineman Greg Gole recorded sacks to force Bellarmine into a third-and-long. Gole finished with two sacks in the game.

This time it was Caleb Brown doing the picking, nabbing another Schindele pass and racing 38 yards to the house to put CK up 21-3.

“It’s definitely unfortunate,” Keel said of the crazy turnover exchange in the second half. “We want to take care of the football.”

While he said the team doesn’t harp on not fumbling or creating turnovers, they did want to protect the ball. Also, as evidenced in the game, he said CK likes to focus on creating the turnovers.

“Now that’s something we do talk about,” Keel said. “We came in with the idea of, here’s a team that puts the ball in the air at least three times a (series). We knew they’d pass. I was hoping we’d get in front of it a couple times and we did.”

Schindele started hot for Bellarmine, completing eight passes in a row at one point. But he finished the game with just one completion and four picks in his last seven attempts to finish 12-of-22 for 150 yards.

Wesley finished with two catches for 78 yards for CK while Brown added four receptions for 52 yards.

“It’s bigger because it’s a league win,” Keel said. “And like we talk about, every week is the most important game of the season.”

CK hits the road Friday, taking on Mount Tahoma (1-4, 0-2) at 7 p.m. in Tacoma.

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