No. 1 Skyline Spartans defeat No. 5 Bothell Cougars, 33-21

September 4, 2012

By Jayson Jenks

Nic Sblendorio, Skyline High School senior wide receiver, makes it onto three highlight reels as he eludes Bothell’s Sam McPherson on his 60-yard punt return touchdown during the second quarter. By Greg Farrar

In the moments with the game on the line, when a play here or there could have been decisive, the Skyline High School team kept its cool like a team that had been there before.

Bothell, on the other hand, looked exactly like the group it is: rich on talent and upside, but still learning the intricacies that come with beating a top-notch program.

And because of that, on the opening Friday night of the football season, top-ranked Skyline held off a potent No. 5 Bothell team for a 33-21 win.

“You’ve got a team over there that is used to playing every play with an even-keel,” Bothell coach Tom Bainter said. “They’ve been there. They’ve won championships. They’ve had to come back from a couple scores. We need to become that team to have the character to play it the same way.

“We’ve got to get past that in our program. If we’re going to beat a team like this, we have to play them toe-to-toe all the way through.”

That wasn’t a problem early. The Cougars jumped to a quick 14-0 lead behind two touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers.

The first one went for 10 yards to Derek Pedersen. The second one was an 85-yard pass to Jared Berry, who found himself alone behind the Skyline secondary.

“Ross can sling the rock,” Skyline’s Nic Sblendorio said.

Yet Skyline quickly received the big play it needed with a little help from all-everything quarterback Max Browne. Late in the first quarter, Browne delivered a strike to Peter Stromgren for a 32-yard touchdown, cutting Bothell’s lead to 14-8 after a two-point conversion.

Then Sblendorio stepped up, which he had to do in the absence of multiple starters because of injuries or suspensions. On the first play of the second quarter, he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown.

That gave Skyline a 15-14 lead.

“I had to have a bigger role,” said Sblendorio, who caught eight passes for 86 yards, had an interception and rushed for a touchdown.

In the middle of the second quarter, Bowers fired a pass across the middle, which at least two players tipped. The ball found Jed Aboulhosn for a fortuitous 11-yard touchdown that gave Bothell a 21-15 halftime lead.

Bowers finished 15 for 33 for 224 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and two late fumbles.

In the first half, he passed for more yards than Browne. But Browne, the USC commit, remained consistent, looking every bit the collected veteran who had been there, done that.

He finished 24 for 35 for 291 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Browne also bruised Bothell with his legs, rushing 11 times for 25 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown that gave Skyline a 22-21 lead in the third.

Skyline held Bothell scoreless after halftime. Capping a defensive performance Skyline coach Mat Taylor described as “awesome,” the Spartans recorded a safety in the final minutes.

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