CK rumbles to 45-36 win over Tigers

The air was full of the sound of big engines revving up, and thick with the smoke from numerous crashes and burns.But we're not talking about the Kitsap Destruction Derby Association's whing-ding up the road at Thunderbird Stadium. This was Silverdale Stadium Saturday night, where the Central Kitsap Cougars slammed and rammed their way to a 45-36 nonleague football victory over visiting Battle Ground.The Cougs hammered out an unofficial 353 yards of rushing offense and, more important, stayed away from the turnovers and penalties that stalled Battle Ground's option attack.CK's defense, stung early for some big plays, battened down in the second half and wore down the Tigers. The Cougs also were able to take advantage of a couple of key Battle Ground turnovers to give coach Mark Keel his first season-opening victory in two years as CK's head man.Coming back the way we did is something we can really use, Keel said of his team, which was behind most of the contest before outscoring the Tigers 14-0 in the fourth quarter. That will give us lots of confidence.The Cougs twice fashioned scoring drives after collecting Battle Ground fumbles, including a five-play, 34-yard march that ended with Dustin Wilson's 22-yard scamper to give them a nine-point edge with just 5 minutes, 8 seconds left to play. They made that stand up when Steve Begley sacked Tigers quarterback Brant Brewer to squash a drive at CK's 32 yard line.Earlier, Battle Ground pushed deep into Cougar territory, but got nothing when Jeff Daschel fumbled after taking Brewer's screen pass, and CK's Ian Stenerson recovered. The Cougs took the ball the other way for a 13-play drive that put them up 24-22 at halftime. Wilson also put the capper on that drive with a 9-yard run.Wilson, a state-class sprinter, finished with three touchdowns and 157 yards on 17 carries. He was the outside rushing threat in Keel's multi-pronged ball-control offense; the inside came from fellow senior Blake Berryman, who carried 25 times for 173 yards and two more TDs.Quarterback Jake Higgs completed 7 of 14 passes for another 86 yards, completing an offense that the Tigers never were able to solve.It took a while for the whole effort to come together, however. Battle Ground singed the Cougs for a 70-play scoring drive in just two plays on its first possession, and scored its next time out on a 66-yard keeper by Brewer.The scoring drive to take the lead just before halftime, though, and some adjustments at the break helped the Cougars fend off the Tigers in the second half.We were a lot more aggressive after halftime, Keel said. We saw what we were doing to ourselves, and we told them to just go out and play the way they're coached; and they did it.Clutching the halftime lead also was crucial for a team that was playing its first game with a lot of new personnel in skill positions, according to Keel.That was big, he said. We were able to take that in at half, and know we needed to go back out and build on it.Even then, it wasn't an easy proposition. Battle Ground twice recaptured the lead, and took a 36-31 edge into the fourth quarter.But a 10-play drive, Berryman and Wilson each tearing off big chunks of yardage on the ground and Higgs hitting Josh Goffin for 11 yards before Thomas Driver slid into the end zone from a yard out, put the Cougars back on top for good.And when Daschel coughed up the ensuing kickoff for Berryman to pounce on, CK had its opportunity to put the game away.The Cougars scored on seven of their 10 possessions in the game, punted twice and ran out the clock with the 10th. Math buffs will note that that leaves no room for turnovers - no fumbles lost, no interceptions.Keel credited his durable running backs, and a heady game by Higgs, for that accomplishment.I thought Jake played a smart game, Keel said. He made smart decisions, he threw the ball well and he didn't try to force anything.Credit should also be doled to Greg Hlebechuk and Chris Degarmo, who each fell on fumbles during Central's go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter to keep possession.

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