Skyline Spartans defense does in Woodinville Falcons, 26-21

November 29, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Max Browne, Skyline High School junior quarterback, breaks the tackle of Woodinville senior linebacker Jacob Hollister on a keeper for nine yards to the Falcon 8-yard line as the Skyline sideline looks on during the first quarter. By Greg Farrar

Even when the Woodinville Falcons were poised for a last-minute comeback, the Skyline High School football team seemed confidant that on the field things would go its way.Max Browne and the Skyline offense had done its job. The defense had held just well enough in key situations. And even though Woodinville recovered an onside kick and nearly scored a game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left, Skyline seemed to hold onto a tradition built on its ability to thrive during the state playoffs.

“I was terrified,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said.

The Spartans survived the 4A state semifinal match, beating Woodinville, 26-21, Nov. 26 in a battle of KingCo Conference teams at the Tacoma Dome. The Spartans (10-3) will play for a chance to take home their third 4A state championship in four years at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Tacoma Dome.

“I think so much of it is tradition, and the kids building up their own program,” Taylor said of the team’s late-season success. “We have expected the guys are gonna win.”

Skyline got things going early. It scored on its first possession of the game after junior quarterback Browne set it up with a 40-yard pass to senior receiver Taggart Kreuger. Seven plays later, Browne connected with running back Damian Greene for a 2-yard touchdown pass. After a botched field goal attempt, the Spartans led 6-0.

Both teams ended promising first-half drives with turnovers, including Skyline’s fumble to Woodinville on the Falcon 15-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. Woodinville went three-and-out and Skyline scored on the next possession on a Greene 1-yard run up the middle to take a 12-0 lead.

The Falcons gave it back 12 plays later when Skyline defensive back Andrew Giese intercepted a pass in the end zone from quarterback Brett Arrivey.

The Spartans kept control of the game by plugging any running lanes for Falcons’ running back Alec Schwend, the KingCo Crown Division’s Offensive Player of the Year. Skyline held Schwend to just 35 yards on 12 carries all game.

“They controlled the tempo in the first half,” Woodinville coach Wayne Maxwell said. “They were just flying up and committing nine guys to the run.”

Skyline led 12-0 at halftime after failing to capitalize on the turnover.

Browne completed 15 of 20 passes for 170 yards in the first half and finished 22 for 30 for 281 yards and three touchdowns.

Woodinville got on the board right away after executing through the air in the third quarter. It scored on a 3-yard, Arrivey-to-Schwend pass play. But the Spartans rallied with all cylinders firing to score on its next possession. They went up 19-7 when Greene caught a 60-yard pass from Browne, blasted through two tackles and cruised into the end zone with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter. Greene finished the contest with 31 yards rushing on 12 carries, but he also caught seven passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Skyline’s Nic Sblendorio scored another touchdown for the Spartans in the fourth quarter when he dashed 30 yards on a reverse around the left side into the end zone.

Woodinville kept things alive with another score of its own later in the third quarter. Arrivey scored on a 3-yard keeper, which capped a 65-yard drive.

“Those guys didn’t give up,” Taylor said of the previously unbeaten Falcons team.

The typically run-heavy Falcons were forced to work quickly with the passing game and finished with 338 total yards on offense. Arrivey completed 24 of 34 passes for 269 yards, including the 5-yard touchdown pass to Beau Vintertun that made it 26-21 with 1:28 remaining.

Skyline’s poor handling of the onside kick and the ensuing threat Woodinville posed in the final seconds was a little too close for comfort, Browne and Taylor said about feeling at home in the playoffs. They hoped to learn from past experiences to not let things get out of hand in this year’s state final.

“We’re comfortable, but that last one was too close,” Browne said. “In the end, we trusted in our beliefs and got it done.”

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