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Saints marching together now
West Sound Saints owner and offensive lineman Michael Murray envisioned a team that could stifle opponents with an attacking defense and score points with a dynamic offense.
Those thoughts came before the season.
And after a rough opener late last month, the Saints seemed a lot closer to fulfilling both objectives after a 39-13 win Saturday against the North King County Wildcats in North American Football League play at Silverdale Stadium.
The Saints’ offense, which struggled in a 14-6 loss June 28 against Southern Oregon, once again started slow as they were forced to punt on their first two possessions.
But Gabe Llamas fixed that when he recovered a fumble by North King County quarterback Zachary Hustad and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with about 8 minutes left in the first quarter.
West Sound’s offense responded from there as quarterback Brandon Peterson, who completed 12 of 18 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns, found Rollis Talalumota for a 30-yard pass to extend the lead to 12-0.
That remained the score until the third quarter when the Saints (1-1) extended their advantage to 19-0 when Peterson hit Keon Hamlett for a 29-yard touchdown.
Hamlett, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound wide receiver from Richmond, Va., said it was his first touchdown reception in three years with the team.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hamlett, who saw limited action in 2007 as a baseball player for Olympic College. “Maybe it’s because I’m so small.”
While West Sound coach John Corey generally was pleased with the offense and defense, he didn’t share similar sentiments about the special-teams play. After Hamlett’s score, Derrick Bradley returned the kickoff 76 yards to help the Wildcats (0-2) avoid the shutout.
Later in the game, the Saints were penalized for roughing the kicker on fourth-and-24, which gave North King County a first down.
“Special teams hurt us immensely,” Corey said. “We can’t play like that anymore.”
The offense helped compensate for Bradley’s touchdown return on the ensuing possession when South Kitsap High School graduate Anthony Galloway, who rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries, scored on a 1-yard run.
That touchdown extended the Saints’ advantage to 26-7 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
West Sound scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Thomas Moffit found Hamlett for 31- and 8-yard touchdown passes. North King County scored its final touchdown on what Corey termed a miscommunication.
He said the wrong personnel was on the field on fourth down and the Saints were stopped at their own 3-yard line.
The Wildcats eventually scored on fourth down when John Rossi carried the ball for a 1-yard touchdown.
Corey said the near shutout was even more impressive to him because the defense was without some of its best players, including veteran linebacker Eddie Llamas.
“They stepped up,” he said. “We practiced better and it showed.”
The Saints travel to Canada to play the British Columbia Spartans at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and Corey expects even more progress from his team.
“The guys still haven’t scratched the surface,” he said, noting the team had eight penalties for 50 yards. “We can get a lot better.”