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Wolves set for potential 'league championship' against Bellarmine | Football
It is not Central Kitsap. And definitely not Gig Harbor.
The Class 4A Narrows League rivalry game that every football fan — at least in Port Orchard — is discussing is at 7 p.m. Friday at Bellarmine Prep.
After the Wolves (3-0 overall, 1-0 league) opened league play with a 38-25 win Friday against Gig Harbor, they play a game that could help determine 4A Narrows' champion.
That is because Olympia, which was considered by many to be the Lions' primary challenger in the league, lost 23-12 last week at Timberline to fall to 0-3.
Bellarmine's lone loss, 42-38, came Sept. 7 against Lakes, which is expected to vie for the 3A state championship. The Lions (2-1, 1-0) won 42-7 last week at Central Kitsap.
"I think we have to look at this as a league championship game," South coach Eric Canton said. "If we don't, we're fools."
The game takes on particular importance because Canton said 4A Narrows schools still have not been informed about how many guaranteed playoff spots they will receive this season. It could be as few as three for the seven-team league and a loss would drop the Wolves pack into a pack of teams, including Yelm (3-0, 1-0), vying for a couple of postseason berths.
South put itself in a good position for now by avoiding an upset by the Tides. The teams were tied, 7-all, at halftime after senior quarterback Kevin Whatley found classmate Devon Newquist for a 14-yard touchdown and Gig Harbor responded with a 13-yard touchdown run by T.J. Turnbull during the second quarter.
The momentum quickly shifted early in the second half when senior cornerback Bryce Broome intercepted Garrett Gallanger and returned it for a 37-yard touchdown.
"He's making big plays at big times," Canton said.
The Wolves then recovered a fumble and scored on the ensuing play when Whatley found senior wide receiver Nic Stoner for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
But a pair of penalties on a Whatley interception — a personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct — moved the Tides down to South's 14-yard line, where Turnbull scored on a run.
"We were looking to blow it wide open and then they're within a touchdown," Canton said.
Sophomore linebacker Marshaun DeWalt helped South accomplish that late in the third quarter, though. He stripped the ball from Turnball and returned the fumble for a 5-yard touchdown. That gave the Wolves a 28-13 advantage entering the final period.
"He's starting to figure it out," said Canton, adding that DeWalt is making fewer mistakes as the season progresses. "He's always found a way to make plays."
South extended its lead to as much as 38-13 when senior R.J. Polen kicked a 27-yard field goal and Whatley scored on a 10-yard run. Gig Harbor scored its final dozen points on 26- and 41-yard touchdowns from Gallanger to Reese Carlson.
While Canton said he was pleased with the performance of his defense, along with defeating a rival, there were aspects he did not enjoy. Along with giving up a pair of late touchdowns, he lost offensive lineman Austin Kanouse, an all-Narrows League selection last season, to a first-quarter ejection. Referees saw Kanouse throw a retaliatory punch at a Gig Harbor player during the first quarter and tossed him. He will be suspended for the Bellarmine game.
Canton said the Tides' player hit Kanouse in the face mask and "he responded in kind."
He said he had an opportunity to appeal the suspension, but declined.
"The film is not going to show any different," Canton said. "It's still against the rules."
The onus, he said, is now on his players to make up for the deficit.
"I think our kids will be fine," Canton said. "Adversity happens in life. We have to respond."