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It was Central Kitsaps Homecoming game Friday night but the North Kitsap Vikings made sure that the party wasnt a happy one.
Down by four points with barely a minute to go in a packed Silverdale Stadium, sophomore Viking quarterback Jared Prince hit Reuben Scuffy with a 26-yard pass that looked like a sure touchdown for the North fans. But the refs ruled Scuffy was pushed out of bounds by CK defensive back Tyler Smith just outside the pylons.
So Prince handed the ball off to 175-pound junior running back Jeremiah Doehne who plowed through the Cougar defense to give North the lead with 59 seconds left on the clock. After Patrick Gilbert connected for the extra point, North (4-2 Narrows League Bridge Division, 4-3 overall) regained the lead at 21-18.
The Cougars (2-4 League, 2-5 overall), sensing their playoff hopes slipping away, came back with a drive of their own. CKs own sophomore quarterback, Nicholas LaFontaine, connected with tight end Matt Afalava twice for 26 yards with 43 yards to go. A run by LaFontaine and a pass to junior Keith Cain moved the ball down to the Cougars 32-yard line. A defensive pass interference call on North moved the ball to the 17-yard line and the Cougars were threatening to score again to retake the lead.
But the Vikings refused to let their own playoff chances fall apart as Doehne intercepted LaFontaines pass to Adam Roy on the 5-yard line with 13 seconds left to play and returned it 22 yards. A knee by Prince with 5 seconds on the clock and the Vikings realized they had made the postseason.
Our kids dont give up, NK coach Jerry Parrish said. Thats one of our outstanding traits is that they dont give up.
Our perseverance paid off, especially on that last pass. The ball was thrown perfectly but Jeremiah was still able to pick it off.
Roy was noticeably shocked in the locker room.
We were coming back we just couldnt finish it, said Roy, a senior. Its just too bad. Theyre a good team but I thought we were better we just didnt play up to our level.
Prince and LaFontaine showed that theres plenty of excitement to come between the two teams over the next two seasons.
Prince connected on 10-of-15 passing for 169 yards including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chad Foster to give the Vikings a 7-3 lead in the first quarter. He also was sacked twice and threw a pair of interceptions.
He made a couple of sophomore mistakes, but there were some coaching errors, too, Parrish admitted. I dont think I called a very good game at all as far as plays are concerned but finally the kids started picking up.
LaFontaine, who has been mainly used to hand off the ball to CKs trio of running backs, found he had to pass the ball when the running game refused to get established.
We had a good night throwing the ball, CK coach Mark Keel said. They shut down our run so we had to throw the ball and that was working.
LaFontaine threw a season-high 25 times, connecting on 15 for 192 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown to Roy near the end of the first half.
Nick threw the ball well and we caught the ball well with some big gains, Keel said. Adam (three catches for 91 yards) had a couple of big gains with that touchdown, which brought the Cougars within five points at 14-9.
The Vikings running game racked up 191 yards, with hard-pounding senior James Smith garnering 92 yards on 24 carries mostly in the first half.
We did that purposely, Parrish said. He was the decoy. Our sweep went really well and we felt CKs Mike Afalava was spying on James so we felt we needed to do some other things.
Afalava is a hellacious linebacker, but after a while the wing-T gives you some misdirection and thats one of the things the kids did right.
Afalava, a 220-pound senior, was tasked to stop Smith since Keith McKay was ordered by his doctor to stop playing football forever earlier this week after he was discovered to have a weak vertebrate in his neck.
Weve been moving guys around, Keel said. Any team that runs the trap like North Kitsap does without that guy in there to stop the trap is pretty difficult. But we calmed down and started playing some good defense. We just didnt play smart football tonight we made too many mistakes, including a pair of untimely personal fouls.
Even Parrish praised the work of the Cougar defense.
CK played as tough as any team weve played all year, Parrish said. Their defense plan was good. We just got some good breaks that worked for us.
Central Kitsap wraps up its Bridge Division schedule at Port Angeles (1-5 League, 2-5 overall) at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Vikings wrap up their regular season at home at 7 p.m. Thursday against Shelton (1-5 League, 1-6 overall.)