Spartans run out of comebacks

December 7, 2010

By Christopher Huber

Coach Mat Taylor, with the team around him, hugs senior wide receiver Michael Ford on the sideline after the game. Ford was in a wheelchair after breaking his leg during the semifinal against Curtis. By Greg Farrar

Ferris ends Skyline’s reign as state champ 24-16

As the clock ticked toward zero, Skyline High School’s Kasen Williams was like a statue. He lined up in his safety position, Ferris quarterback Ben Goodwin took a knee and the Saxon fans erupted in celebration.

Williams stood, unflinching, with a hand on his hip, staring straight ahead in disbelief. He couldn’t quite reach perfection — four state titles in four years.

Despite staging a near comeback in the third and fourth quarters, Skyline’s run of three straight state championships came to an end Dec. 4, when the Spartans lost the 4A title game to Ferris, of Spokane, 24-16, at the Tacoma Dome.

“They’re a real good team,” Williams said after the game.

Skyline, which finished the season 12-2, looked to be the second-half dominator it had been throughout the 2010 playoffs, but too many early mistakes and a clock-dominating Ferris offense kept the Spartans off the scoreboard until the end of the third quarter.

Both of Skyline’s touchdowns came on 5-yard passes from sophomore quarterback Max Browne to sophomore wide receiver Nic Sblendorio. Skyline converted for two points on each, but that was the extent of its offensive attack.

“It sucks, but we had a lot of plays we could’ve made in the first half,” Browne said as the sting of defeat set in. “The story at the half was we just didn’t make plays. We just didn’t come out firing.”

On the other hand, the Ferris Saxons were firing on all cylinders.

The Ferris defense held Skyline to just 15 yards on its first possession of the game and subsequently kept Skyline out of the end zone when it recovered a Sblendorio fumble at the 4-yard line in the first.

“We saw something early,” Ferris running back Kole Heidinger said. “Even when our offense isn’t there, our defense is.”

Heidinger played a major role in keeping the ball out of the hands of the Skyline offense. The junior running back ran for 92 yards on 19 carries. Ferris possessed the ball for 31 minutes, 37 seconds, compared to Skyline’s 16:23.

Heidinger partially attributed the Saxons’ motivation for this year’s victory to last year’s 42-21 loss to Skyline in the 4A title game.

“Our offensive line stepped up huge,” Heidinger said. “We had some motivation this year in the weight room.”

With protection from the offensive line, Goodwin completed 14 of 24 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Goodwin hit Jordan Tonani and Riley Stockton on 17-yard touchdown passes in the second quarter. Tonani scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter.

Goodwin, a junior, was intercepted once. Williams snatched that wayward pass, which led to Skyline’s first score with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

“This team just put it on in the second half,” Williams said about Skyline’s late-game resilience. “It was that first half that got us.”

While Browne was still mostly himself in the first half — he went 11 of 22 for 138 yards passing — he threw a costly interception, which led to Ferris’ first touchdown. He still managed 302 yards passing, completing 22 of 38 passes to six different receivers. Although he threw one more interception on Skyline’s first play of the second half, he and senior receiver Jordan Simone connected six times for 120 yards down the stretch. Simone finished with eight catches for 133 yards.

Sblendorio added six catches for 49 yards and Teran Togia had four receptions for 79 yards to help the cause in the third and fourth quarters.

“I had full confidence we would come back,” said Skyline coach Mat Taylor.

Williams was not a factor against the Saxons’ defense down the stretch. He had three catches for 40 yards.

“We just gotta look at ourselves and ask what we could’ve done differently,” Browne said.

As they somberly huddled on the field, Williams and his teammates promised each other Skyline would be back next year, not settling for the second-place trophy they passed around. And although senior standouts like Williams, Togia, Simone, Connor Cree and Chase Huber will not be back in 2011, they speculated the Spartans would return as good, or better, than ever.

“We’ll take away from this season all the ups from the season,” Williams said. “There’s a lot to take from this season. You’re gonna see Skyline again.”

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

Decade of Spartans

Skyline’s playoff history:

  • 2010 – second in 4A, lost 24-16 to Ferris
  • 2009 – first in 4A, defeated Ferris 45-21
  • 2008 – first in 4A, defeated Issaquah 20-15
  • 2007 – first in 3A, defeated O’Dea 42-35
  • 2005 – first in 4A, defeated Woodinville 35-21
  • 2004 – second in 4A, lost to Evergreen, 28-14
  • 2002 – 3A quarterfinals, lost to Lynden 21-15
  • 2001 – 3A semifinals, lost to Bellevue 42-24
  • 2000 – first in 3A, defeated Lakes 42-30

Season in review

Skyline 12-2

Regular season

  • L Liberty 39, Skyline 34
  • W Skyline 28, Bellevue 21
  • W Skyline 38, Lake Oswego, Ore., 14
  • W Skyline 35, Issaquah 6
  • W Skyline 45, Redmond 0
  • W Skyline 55, Newport 34
  • W Skyline 56, Jackson 3
  • W Skyline 36, Eastlake 22

Post season

  • W Skyline 31, Bothell 21
  • W Skyline 16, Central Kitsap 14
  • W Skyline 34, Rogers-Puyallup 7
  • W Skyline 42, Issaquah 21
  • W Skyline 35, Curtis 34
  • L Ferris 24, Skyline 16

Championship game wrapup

Williams earns top honor

Skyline High School senior football star Kasen Williams has been named the Gatorade Washington Player of the year.

With the honor, Williams will be a finalist for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award, to be awarded later this month.

Entering the Dec. 4 state title game, Williams had caught 83 passes for 1,539 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.

He was the 4A KingCo Conference Crest Division offensive player of the year, and also selected to the 2011 U.S. Army All-America Team.

Ferris changed defenses

According to a report in the Spokesman-Review, Ferris changed its defensive scheme for Skyline in the 4A state title game. The Saxons abandoned their base 4-3 defense, went with just three down linemen and added an extra safety.

Safety Riley Stockton, the Greater Spokane League defensive player of the year, was assigned to defend against Skyline standout Kasen Williams. In last year’s state title game, Williams beat the Saxons with several big plays.

“Basically, we bracketed Riley on Kasen all night. We told our kids he’s not going to beat us,” Ferris defensive coordinator Grady Emmerson said. “If the other guys beat us, good for them. You’ve got to play better than the other guys.”

Saxons were a little nervous

When Skyline scored two second-half touchdowns, Ferris players still believed they would post the upset.

“They made us a little nervous,” Ferris senior Cody Sorenson told reporters. “We just had to keep playing, keep believing.”

Sorenson added Skyline’s last-gasp rally, intercepting a pass that secured the Saxons’ 24-16 victory.

Skyline grads receive football honors

Skyline grads Nick Rocco and Nick Cragin, defensive standouts the past two years for Utah’s Dixie State College, earned Great Northwest Athletic Conference honors this fall.

Rocco, a defensive lineman, was picked for the conference first team. He led Dixie State in sacks with 4.5.

Cragin, a linebacker, was picked for the conference second team. He was second on Dixie State in tackles with 82.

Rocco was also selected to the conference’s all-academic team.

Former Spartans on playoff team

Punter Paul Vanderwulp and offensive tackle Luke Marquardt played on the Azusa Pacific University football team that reached the NAIA tournament this fall.

The Cougars lost to Carroll College, of Montana, 35-21, in the first round.

Vanderwulp averaged 51.8 yards per punt. He also had a 21-yard pass on a fake punt play.

Marquardt at 6-foot-10, 300 pounds, was the biggest player on the field.

Going bowling

Three former Skyline players are on the University of Washington football team, which will play in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 in San Diego.

The Skyline graduates are offensive tackle Cody Habben, wide receiver Will Chandler and linebacker Cooper Pelluer.

Habben, a senior, is a starter. Chandler, a redshirt freshman, has seen some action as a reserve this season. Pelluer, a freshman, is redshirting the season.

The Holiday Bowl will be the first bowl game for the Huskies since 2002.

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One Response to “Spartans run out of comebacks”

  1. Football cedes spotlight as other sports reach milestones, memories : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds and More in Issaquah, WA on September 4th, 2011 8:11 am

    […] championship in November. Meanwhile, the football team made another strong run at a championship, but came up second in […]

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