Wolves refuse to lose

It was there for the taking, so the Wolves took it.

After working the flats all night long, South Kitsap looked inside and, when they needed it the most, found an opening big enough to lift the program to one of its biggest wins in the past four years.

Kyle Pease hit Jason Read for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 13.5 seconds remaining Friday night to lift the Wolves past Shelton, 17-14, in a key Narrows League Bridge Division game.

The scoring strike capped a six-play, 35-yard drive that moved South to 2-2 on the year and 2-0 in league play.

The Highclimbers fell to 2-2 and 1-1.

“Oh it’s huge — just huge,” SK Coachg D.J. Sigurdson said, “if you consider the way the game went and the number of opportunities that we had. You’re on the sidelines contemplating how you’re going to recover ... what sorts of things you need to do because they’ve played so hard in all four of our games.

“It really would have felt like, I know we didn’t really do exceptionally well on defense, but I really would have felt like we let it slip away if we hadn’t got the win,” Sigurdson said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s really nice to go into the film room (on Saturday) knowing you’re 2-2 and 2-0 in conference.”

It took a lot of little things to get the Wolves to that point, but after falling behind late yet again, this time they really showed their mettle.

The Wolves took advantage of a number of seemingly small Shelton mistakes, like three delay of game penalties and two illegal participation calls, along with three turnovers, to help put themselves in position to win the game.

After falling behind 14-10 on a Joe Espino 80-yard run late in the third quarter, South moved downfield nicely couldn’t convert on a first-and-goal situation.

But the defense turned what looked to be a lost cause into one last chance, helped out by a Shelton penalty that stopped the clock.

“There were some things that helped us out a lot,” Sigurdson said. “The defense played well, and when we turned the ball over, they really played well. There were little letdowns there, but then we responded when it got down to their red zone.”

South’s final chance came with 40 seconds left as after the Wolves forced a short punt that gave them the ball at the Shelton 35-yard line. That’s when Pease went to work, immediately hooking up twice with senior wide out Monte Enyeart for 13 yards to put the Wolves in position to go for the win. After two incomplete passes, Pease found Read for a six-yard gain down to the Highclimber 16-yard line, setting up a fourth and four situation.

Pease then hit Read slanting toward the middle of the field for the winning score, setting off a raucus celebration not heard at Joe Knowles Field in some time.

“We knew with no timeouts, we had to go to the flats,” assistant coach Eric Canton said. “You have to throw the ball to the sidelines and when it gets down to the point where you don’t have any time left, you just throw it anywhere you can.

“They had the sidelines covered,” Canton said of Shelton, “so throw the ball to the middle of the field because it’s wide open. Great throw, great catch — you couldn’t draw it up any better.”

Pease ended the game completing 15 of 26 passes for a career-high 263 yards and two scores, while Chad Fowler rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries to give South a solid, balanced attack.

“We can only go up from here. This is great,” Pease said. “This is basically the best win we’ve ever had. I feel like we can beat anyone now.”

Read hauled in three balls for 31 yards and a score, while Enyeart caught four passes for 50 yards.

David Parker picked up 65 yards on four catches, while Deandre Jackson turned a short pass in the flat into an 82-yard, second-quarter touchdown.

“Just a lot of hard work paying off, pretty much,” Read said. “This is huge – it gives us a lot of momentum. We just have to keep working hard because next week’s a new game and a new week.”

Lost amid the excitement of the game’s final minutes was a defense that once again bent but didn’t break in getting the job done. Especially since the front line played without tackle Dan Tajalle, who injured is right knee on the first series.

But his replacement, Landon Ludwig, along with the return of junior end Renard Williams, was enough up front to keep South close. The Wolves’ held the Highclimbers in check, giving up 348 yards but forcing three key turnovers. Joe Espino rushed for 162 yards on 24 carries but got half of that on an 80-yard scoring run that gave Shelton a 14-10 lead.

“When Tajalle went down, we just decided we were going to do it for him. We were going to do it for the team,” senior lineman Kyle Saltsgaver said. “We just kept up, and we had a blast.”

The win should do wonders for a team that struggled mightily all of last year and has had its share of problems early this year. But no one on the team is quite ready to call it a season-making win just yet.

“I don’t think so, we have six more games left,” Canton said. “So, right now, enjoy this and then get ready for North Kitsap.”

South travels to Poulsbo Friday to face the Vikings.

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