Cougar outbattle Trojans

Central Kitsap football coach Mark Keel received a hero’s welcome from the CK High School faithful Friday night at Silverdale Stadium after he led the Cougars to a 37-19 victory over the Olympic High School Trojans. For details on the 29th “Battle of Bucklin Hill,” see page A7. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Central Kitsap football coach Mark Keel received a hero’s welcome from the CK High School faithful Friday night at Silverdale Stadium after he led the Cougars to a 37-19 victory over the Olympic High School Trojans. For details on the 29th “Battle of Bucklin Hill,” see page A7.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Maybe it was the nearly full moon, the chance to make their legacy or the thought of slipping completely out of the playoff race, but whatever it was, something sparked in the Central Kitsap Cougars’ offense Friday night against their bitter in-district rivals the Olympic Trojans.

In the 29th edition of the “Battle of Bucklin Hill,” the CK Class of 2002 continued their three-year dominance over Olympic and improved their school’s series record to 16-13 with a 37-19 win.

“This was a big win. This keeps us in the playoff hunt, we beat our rivals and we didn’t have to see them celebrate,” CK coach Mark Keel said.

The Cougars (2-3 League, 2-4 overall), behind the three-headed running attack of Nick Bial, Noel Gregory and Josh Martinelli, ran rampant through the Trojans’ defense for 290 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Nick LaFontaine passed six times, connecting four times for 58 yards.

“When people were talking about this game talking about the score difference at the South Kitsap and Bremerton games (where CK allowed both teams to come from behind to win), we wanted to reverse that and put it to them,” said Gregory who ran for a game-high 114 yards.

The Cougars got the offense going on a 63-yard drive capped off by Bial running in four yards for the first of his two touchdowns on the night.

Olympic (2-3 League, 2-4 overall), finding no holes in the Cougars’ defense following an 11-yard pass from Jeff Shaw to Martin Gratz, punted on fourth down.

CK immediately drove the ball back 65 yards with Martinelli finding a seam on the left side of the field on a 24-yard touchdown run with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Trojans punted on their third possession, and for the first time, were able to keep the Cougars from making a touchdown. But they didn’t keep CK from scoring as Keith Cain nailed a 41-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.

CK showed they weren’t done moving the ball just yet on their next possession, as Bial completed a 52-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.

The Cougar fans sensed a rout was on as visions of last year’s 69-15 victory flashed in their minds. The Trojans had visions of their own, remembering their come-from-behind win against Port Angeles the week before.

And with six seconds left in the first half, Olympic’s fantasies started to materialize when Shaw found Gratz from 15 yards out to get the visiting Trojans on the scoreboard 24-7 going into the locker room.

Gratz proved to be Shaw’s favorite receiver, catching seven passes for 112 yards.

“The plan was to run them into the ground and then we started passing,” Gratz said. But the run never materialized as Oly only gained 28 rushing yards.

Olympic came out firing in the second half. After Gordon fumbled the ball, OHS lineman Joe Cox fell on the ball on the Cougars’ 32-yard line. After a quick drive, Shaw faked a handoff to Jarrell Nelson and then ran left four yards for a touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, Olympic’s Ryan Benko recovered the ball on the Cougars’ 21-yard line and 10 seconds after the last touchdown, Shaw connected with Gratz again for a 21-yard touchdown pass to get the Trojans back in the game down 24-19.

“We almost pulled it off,” OHS coach Carlton Cooper said. “With all the mistakes we made we still had a shot. It’s just, wow, where were these guys at in the first quarter? We’re down 24 and all of a sudden these guys come to play. We need consistency.”

Yet the Cougs remained unfazed by Olympic’s sudden scoring output.

“That just made us more pumped up for the game to play the rest of the half,” Gregory said.

But with more than 20 minutes left to play, that was the last time the Trojans reached the endzone.

“I’m sure some people had the Bremerton game in their minds but our focus was on working hard and continue to working hard regardless of the lead,” Keel said.

The two teams battled back and forth with each teams’ punter getting a lot of work. The momentum swept back in the Cougars’ favor when Nelson mishandled a punt and CK recovered the loose ball. It eventually ended up in Martinelli’s hands once again as he ran four yards for his second TD and improve the Cougs’ lead to 30-19.

This wasn’t a normal night for Nelson who was stymied by the CK defense for minus-2 yards lost on offense.

“I was hoping that they would be so focused on me that the other players would break something loose,” Nelson said. “But they couldn’t get anything going besides our pass game.”

After a drive for no gain, the Trojans punted one last time. The Cougars wore down the clock and the Olympic defenders on a 84-yard touchdown drive to go up 37-19 on yet another run from Martinelli, this time from the 6-yard line with 45 seconds remaining.

LaFontaine put the Trojans away for good when he intercepted Shaw, giving the Cougars the ball and the ballgame.

“We learned you can’t come back,” Shaw said. “You’re not going to score 18 points in one throw. We don’t want to be just a second-half team — we want to be a first-half team. We gave them a good show for about 12 minutes, that’s about it.”

Central Kitsap celebrates its Homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday at Silverdale Stadium. The Trojans are in Gig Harbor at the same time.

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