Skyline rolls into state

November 11, 2008

By Christopher Huber

Spartans continue undefeated streak with 30-7 win over Graham-Kapowsin

Tait Stephens (6), Skyline junior defensive back, with Tommy Aarts (28) and Ryan Somers (12) backing him up, picks up a high snap by the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles on a punt attempt with 12 seconds left in the second quarter and runs it in for the Spartans' second touchdown of the game. Photo by Christopher Huber

Tait Stephens (6), Skyline junior defensive back, with Tommy Aarts (28) and Ryan Somers (12) backing him up, picks up a high snap by the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles on a punt attempt with 12 seconds left in the second quarter and runs it in for the Spartans

Although they live more than an hour away, the Graham-Kapowsin football team drew enough fans to fill the visitor bleachers at Skyline Stadium Nov. 8 in a second-round playoff game against the Spartans.  The band even showed up to add some pep to the game. 

All the positive cheer, though, wasn’t enough to quell the determined home team as Skyline continued its winning streak and beat the Eagles 30-7. 

Graham-Kapowsin ended its season 6-4 overall and Skyline improved to 10-0 to advance to the first round of the state tournament. 

“They’re just a good football team,” Eagles’ head coach Eric Kurle said as he walked off the field. “They stuck in it. We gave ‘em a little challenge there early, but good teams are going to find a way to win.”

It was a game of adjustment on defense and consistency on offense for Skyline, which had trouble containing Graham-Kapowsin’s 6-foot-3-inch, 260-pound running back Chris Ratteray in the first quarter. 

It was high-energy from the start. Graham-Kapowsin, a heavy run team, pounded the ball 38 yards down the field on its first possession, converting two fourth downs and threatening on the ground. But Skyline sacked quarterback Jeff Logan on third-and-9 to force a punt. 

Nothing came of Skyline’s first possession. But midway through the first quarter, both teams exchanged turnovers. Spartan Gino Simone wowed the crowd on an easy interception thrown from Logan, but on offense, Simone fumbled the ball right back to Graham-Kapowsin at the Eagles’ 30-yard line.

No one scored in the first, but Skyline struggled to find a rhythm on offense and Graham-Kapowsin posed some of that “adversity” Skyline had not seen much of on either side of the ball until the post season. 

Skyline broke up the stalemate three minutes into the second, on third-and-11, when junior quarterback Jake Heaps bombed a pass up the left side to a streaking Simone. The 49-yard play put Skyline up 7-0.

Graham drove well in the second, but the Spartan defensive line adjusted well and forced Ratteray outside often. 

“They just pinched in and piled up, and physically we were getting beat up front,” Kurle said. “Their D-line was a little better than our offensive line, and they were able to make some piles to make it hard for him to get going.”

Heaps and Simone hooked up for a 25-yard screen pass late in the second, but Heaps fumbled the ball to Graham-Kapowsin on the next play. 

As time wound down in the half, both teams tried to get something going in their opponent’s territory. And just as Skyline was to settle for a 7-0 halftime lead, Graham snapped the ball over the punter’s head and Skyline’s Tait Stephens, followed by four teammates, chased the ball down and scored. 

With 12 seconds left, the crowd went wild and the Spartans had a more comfortable 14-0 lead at the half. 

By the second half, Skyline had adjusted its defensive strategy and had sunk into a rhythm on offense.

“We had to make a few adjustments at halftime and we just missed the first play after the half, where we had Kasen on a deep ball and he just missed it and their kid made a great play on it,” Skyline head coach Mat Taylor said. “They were giving us the opportunity to run the ball and they started bringing blitz and we started to throw.”

Its offensive success was measured by how often the parent section cheered “1-2-3, first down!”

Kicker Brian Schwartz hit a field goal in the third quarter, Heaps kept the ball for a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth, and Simone caught a 6-yard pass from Heaps to put Skyline up 30-0. 

The Eagles’ touchdown came with just 2:05 remaining in the game. Graham-Kapowsin drove from its own 36 to score on a 2-yard run by Ratteray.

Heaps finished 18 of 26 for 227 yards passing. Simone caught eight passes for 126 yards, while running back Nick Washburn carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards. Skyline held Graham-Kapowsin to just 101 yards rushing and 95 yards passing. The Eagles averaged 220 yards rushing per game this season. 

“They came out and they played us real tough,” Simone said after the game. “They’re a very good, physical team, but there were a couple of things that we saw on that defense that we thought that we could exploit and, you know, we made plays at the right time. 

“With a good team like that you just got to do all that you can.”

Skyline moves on to play Federal Way Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Skyline Stadium. 

Reach Reporter Christopher Huber at 392-64334, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. 

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