Eagles win wild one against Bremerton

Klahowya’s Jeremy Alder celebrates after breaking the goal line for the first Eagles’ touchdown in Friday’s 28-27 win against Bremerton at Silverdale Stadium. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Klahowya’s Jeremy Alder celebrates after breaking the goal line for the first Eagles’ touchdown in Friday’s 28-27 win against Bremerton at Silverdale Stadium.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

With more than 1,200 students, Bremerton High School is the fifth-largest 3A school in the state.

At right around 535 students, Klahwoya Secondary School is among Washington’s 15 smallest 2As.

So when Bremerton and Klahowya squared off Friday in the 2007 season opener for both school’s football squads, many expected a Bremerton repeat of last season’s 21-14 win against the Eagles.

But as the saying goes, big things can come in small packages.

Klahowya outlasted the Knights 28-27 at Silverdale Stadium in a high-octane game filled with big plays on both sides of the ball, big moments for both squads and unfortunately, some big injuries that occurred late in the instant classic.

“That’s one way to get into it, isn’t it?” Klahowya coach Brad Hamblet said of the season opener.

Klahowya running back Andre Moore tallied up 185 yards and three scores in the game, including a 75-yarder, to help the Eagles (1-0) fend off a late Knights (0-1) rally.

“He’s a darn good runner,” Hamblet said. “A smooth runner. I like watching him run. He knows where that cutback lane is.”

Trailing 28-21, Bremerton began a drive that echoed what they’d done throughout the game, picking up big yards at big times.

“I was going, ‘Oh man. We don’t need a big play at this point,’” Hamblet said after Knights bruiser Jamiere Abney burst up the left side for 42 yards with just 44 seconds remaining. “We talked about it at halftime. But give (Bremerton) credit. When they needed it, they got it.”

That run set up a Knights first-and-10 on Klahowya’s 17-yard line. Knights speedster Alex Griffin then turned a near loss into a 9-yard pickup, scampering to the 8-yard line with just 16 seconds left. But that’s when misfortune struck the heart of the Knights’ offensive attack.

After picking up 5 yards on the next play, and with only six ticks remaining on the clock, Griffin was the only player not to get up after the pile separated. Bremerton trainers had to cut off his jersey as it appeared Griffin was having trouble breathing, suffering from what appeared to be a rib injury. He was forced to leave the field on a stretcher, but raised his arm when the crowd cheered him off.

“You don’t like to see those at all,” Hamblet said.

Once play resumed, the Knights had one final shot with no timeouts to get back into the game. In his last chance, Abney pounded the ball up the gut for a 3-yard touchdown, making the score 28-27 with no time left.

But rather than go for the point-after attempt to tie the game, Knights coach Nate Gillam opted to try the two-point conversion, going for a victory.

“I don’t regret that decision for a minute,” Gillam said. “The problem was, the play we ran was not the play I thought we should have called. You’ve got to get the ball into hands of your best player.”

Moore and fellow Eagle Darrel Normandy met Bremerton back Jamaree Wells about 2 yards short of the goal line. Many thought Abney should have had the carry.

“I’m so proud of our kids,” Hamblet said. “They find a way to get it done. It’s a great win for our kids. The hard

worked payed off.”

For the Eagles, the win marked the first time since the 2004 season the team has started 1-0. Having it come against a team more than twice Klahowya’s size just made it that much

more meaningful, Hamblet said.

“It’s great,” he said. “You never know what it’ll be like until you play against another team. And Bremerton is a large school. It’s a real boost to our program and the kids’ efforts. It’s a great night.”

Moore, who lead the Eagles’ multi-headed rushing attack, said the win proves that Klahowya can hang with the Olympic League’s larger schools, even if the game was a non-leaguer.

“It was a close game last year. It’s good to come back and beat them,” he said. “That tells everyone we can play with the big guys.”

In addition to Moore’s effort, bruiser Jeremy Alder finished with 23 yards on nine carries and the Eagles’ first score, a 6 yard scampered up the gut in the second to tie the game at 7-7.

Bremerton’s big-play ability came up big again tied at 14, with quarterback Jacob Belden finding Griffin for a 41-yard pickup with just 15 seconds left in the first half. Griffin finished with 58 rushing yards and two catches for 41 yards.

Abney then picked up 14 to put Bermerton on the goal line, taking the ball in to the end zone a play later, giving the Knights an edge heading into the half. Abney was the Knights’ top threat, with 115 yards on 15 carries, scoring three Bremerton touchdowns. Running back Travis Storey added a score and 84 yards on 12 carries for Bremerton.

Hamblet attributed some of that to the team’s adjustment to its new 3-3-5 defensive scheme.

“It was a little rocky,” Hamblet said. “But the second half, we picked it up a little more.”

But players like Moore enjoyed the new defense.

“It’s good,” he said. “It attacks ’em. And we’re fast on defense.”

Griffin wasn’t the only player to leave the game from injury.

Klahowya running back Cody Hertenstein, at the time leading the team with 13 carries, racking up 49 yards in the process, was forced to leave due to a severe ankle injury.

Despite the defense’s struggles, the Eagles had many strong moments. Corner Danny Zimny, also the team’s quarterback, picked off Belden’s first attempt, and Hertenstein blocked a punt in the second quarter. The Eagles also recovered two fumbles.

With the win matching the team’s victory total of a year ago, Klahowya is confident more is on the way.

“We should have a successful season,” Moore said. “As long as we keep working hard.”

Klahowya will take on Chimacum (0-1) at 5 p.m. in a Friday home game. The Cowboys fell 35-13 to Sequim in the opening weekend.

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