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Football: Wolves conquer Cougars to earn playoff berth
As soon as wide receiver Greg Cleveland was stopped short of first down and the scoreboard at Joe Knowles Field read 0:00, a sea of white-clad students converged at midfield to dance in the mud with their classmates.
South Kitsap 17, Central Kitsap 10.
It not only was a rivalry win for the Wolves (6-3 overall, 4-3 league), but also clinched the fourth — and final — playoff seed out of the Class 4A Narrows League for South Kitsap.
“We’ll take it,” South coach D.J. Sigurdson said. “It’s a very nice step.”
The Wolves will play Friday at Edmonds Stadium against Edmonds-Woodway, which surrendered 21 unanswered points in its loss against Lake Stevens in the 4A Wesco championship game. South is vying for its first state playoff berth in two years, while the Warriors (5-4) are trying to end a four-year drought.
Similar to many rivalry games — four of the last seven have been decided by 10 points or less — winning did not come easy for South. Cleveland returned the opening kickoff 62 yards and Weston Soete later gave the Cougars a 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal.
The Wolves had opportunities to tie or take the lead as two of their four first-half possessions advanced into CK (4-5, 3-4) territory. But a combination of errant passes and drops resulted in South having zero passing yards — and points — at halftime.
“It was so many mental errors and flags,” South junior running back Adam Gascoyne said. “It kept wearing on us, but we just stayed up.”
It did not look any better early in the second half as South’s ninth consecutive pass fell incomplete. The Wolves’ only first down on the drive came on a pass-interference penalty that they were unable to take advantage of and forced to punt for the fourth time in five possessions.
That is where Gascoyne stepped in.
On third-and-6 at the Cougars’ 18-yard line, he intercepted quarterback Josh Schweiterman.
“I was just in the perfect spot at the time,” Gascoyne said. “I was just scared of dropping it. That was the only thing I thought about.”
It was an opportunity South would not blow. Sigurdson inserted junior Kevin Whatley, who has played a series in each game this season during the second quarter. But because the Wolves only had four first-half possessions, Sigurdson said he elected to use Whatley on that possession.
The move was successful as Whatley found Aaron La Deaux in the left corner of the end zone to give South a 7-3 lead.
“I had confidence in Aaron to go up and get that ball,” Whatley said.
Sigurdson said he knew playing Whatley instead of senior Eddie Meisner during that drive would have been scrutinized if it did not work out. That was avoided with the touchdown.
“That really energized us,” Sigurdson said.
Meisner then got the call to return. On the first series of the fourth quarter, he found senior wide receiver C.J. Douty for a 13-yard completion down to the Cougars’ 30. That set up a fourth-and-2.
Behind junior Bryce Broome’s lead block, Gascoyne went untouched up the middle for a touchdown that extended the Wolves’ advantage to 14-3 with 10:37 minutes remaining.
That was one of the few explosive running plays on a soggy field.
“It was just hard to drive your feet,” said Gascoyne, who had 121 yards on 21 carries. “Once you got hit, you slowed down so much and just ran in place for a little bit.”
That appeared to be enough to secure the win until CK briefly turned to its own version of Whatley — junior Cody LaFontaine. On the next play from scrimmage, he took a pitch and found Cleveland open down the right sideline for a 77-yard gain. Gascoyne made the touchdown-saving tackle. But four plays later, Nicholas Zawadzki scored on a 2-yard run.
“We just kept our heads up,” Gascoyne said. “It didn’t seemed like much changed — we were still up.”
South refused to allow the Cougars take advantage of their momentum. The Wolves used a 13-play drive used 6:32. After a 25-yard field goal by La Deaux, CK’s final drive began with just 1:38 left.
The Cougars drove down to South’s 26 with 30 seconds left and a fresh set of downs. But a pair of incompletions coupled with a delay-of-game penalty and a run by Cleveland that lost 11 yards set up a fourth-and-long. Schweiterman found Cleveland, but he was stopped about 5 yards short of first down as the clock expired.
One year after finishing with a 3-7 record — their worst mark since 1977 — the Wolves have an opportunity to advance to state for the 26th time in history.
“It just feels like everything is coming together in a good way,” Gascoyne said. “We’re getting better.”
At South Kitsap 17, Central Kitsap 10
Central Kitsap 3 0 0 7 — 10
South Kitsap 0 0 7 10 — 17
CK—Weston Soete 26 FG
SK—Aaron La Deaux 24 pass from Kevin Whatley (La Deaux kick)
SK—Adam Gascoyne 30 run (La Deaux kick)
CK—Nicholas Zawadzki 2 run (Soete kick)
SK—La Deaux 25 FG
Passing—Josh Schweiterman (CK) 9-16-1-124; Cody LaFontaine (CK) 1-1-0-77; Eddie Meisner (SK) 5-17-0-64; Kevin Whatley (SK) 1-2-0-24.
Rushing—Nicholas Zawadzki (CK) 21-68; Dustin Simmons (CK) 10-24; Greg Cleveland (CK) 4--3; Schweiterman (CK) 1-1; Lafontaine (CK) 1--6; Adam Gascoyne (SK) 21-121; Chas Bauman (SK) 2-3; Meisner (SK) 1-5; Bryce Broome (SK) 2-13; Anthony Williams (SK) 4-2.
Receiving—Simmons (CK) 4-41; Cleveland (CK) 4-151; Jonathon Fergus (CK) 2-9; Aaron La Deaux (SK) 3-50; C.J. Douty (SK) 1-13; Broome (SK) 2-25.