Sports

Sigurdson owns up to gaffe

South Kitsap junior Leon La Deaux, center, walks off the field after time expires with the Wolves down to the Central Kitsap 6-yard line. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
South Kitsap junior Leon La Deaux, center, walks off the field after time expires with the Wolves down to the Central Kitsap 6-yard line.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

It was a cool night last fall in Purdy when D.J. Sigurdson allowed himself to enjoy the moment.

He posed with family, the scoreboard at Roy Anderson Field as their backdrop.

South Kitsap 28, Kamiak 20.

The win had advanced the Wolves to the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2002. It was a significant accomplishment for the coaching staff and a team that regrouped from a 1-2 start that included a 49-21 loss at Central Kitsap.

Last year’s Wolves were outmatched, from a talent standpoint, against the Cougars. They couldn’t find a way to stop tight end Caleb Brown, who had 230 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions, or running back Howie McDonald. That talent deficit marinated during the second half when Central turned the game into a blowout.

The Cougars appeared poised to turn Friday’s game into a similar scenario when H’arion Gaulden took the game’s opening handoff 71 yards for a touchdown.

But football rarely follows a pattern, and South’s stout defense kept things manageable until the final minutes.

That’s when the ball hit Central’s Alonzo Severson in the leg on a punt return. The ball fell backward to the Cougars’ 18-yard line, where it was recovered by South’s Sean Korf.

With 2:49 left, there was more than enough time for the Wolves to win the game.

After all, they only needed a point to tie the game and two to take the lead.

Even if they couldn’t reach the end zone, a field goal would have put the Wolves ahead, and Central would have had little time to drive down field against South’s defense that allowed just one touchdown all evening.

But the offense stagnated after one first-down run by Ryan Williams and were stuck at the Cougars’ 6 with just 22 seconds left and the clock running. Sigurdson eschewed his final timeout to run one more play.

By the time quarterback Gordy Anderson snapped the ball, 10 seconds were left. He rolled out to his right and threw a pass toward wide receiver Leon La Deaux in the end zone that fell incomplete. The clock read 0:00.

Central Kitsap 14, South Kitsap 13.

Game over.

It was a stunning and egregious error in judgment by a veteran coach. The high-percentage short field goal would have won the game withstanding an improbable long kickoff return by the Cougars.

Or if the coaching staff lacked confidence in its kicking game, a timeout would’ve given them an opportunity to draw up a pass play to the end zone before settling for a field goal attempt.

Either option is better than the confusion that transpired as South tried to get its final play off with the clocking running. It simply was too much responsibility to ask from a group of teenagers still learning the game.

To his credit, Sigurdson — one of the most standup, honest coaches in the profession — accepted responsibility for the gaffe and loss.

But this rivalry loss hurts more than most. It was the first time since 1972-73 that South has lost consecutive games against the Cougars. The locker room — always open to reporters after games — was closed this time.

In a sense, this is worse for the Wolves than last year’s loss. There was no controversy following that game other than the embarrassment of being blown out by a rival.

The coaching staff kept that team together to win its next five games — including against its other chief rival, Gig Harbor.

Can Sigurdson do it again with a quality nonleague opponent, Franklin Pierce, and Gig Harbor lingering in the next two weeks?

Any hope of another scoreboard finish likely depends on it.

Chris Chancellor can be reached

at (360) 876-4414, or by e-mail at sports@portorchardindependent.com.

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