Skyline Spartans remain unbeaten, claim KingCo 4A championship

October 30, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Skyline High School’s Cedric Cooper gains a little ground before being tackled in the Oct. 25 game against Bothell. By Jim Nicholson

After plowing through the regular season undefeated, the Skyline High School football team kicked off what it calls the “second season” Oct. 25 with a blowout win over Bothell for the KingCo 4A title.

“To win a league championship and put another banner up in the gym is something these kids will never forget,” coach Mat Taylor said.

The head coach for the Skyline Spartans was surprisingly dry considering other members of the coaching staff had celebratory coolers of ice water dumped over them in the game’s last seconds. The score on the board lit up 34-7 and the Spartans’ sideline erupted with cheers.

“It’s all about going 1-and-0, that’s the only focus,” Taylor said. “Then, once we get 1-and-0, we cross it out and the goal is 2-and-0. That’s our thought process this week is just going 1-and-0. It’s the second season.”

The Spartans distanced themselves from the Bothell Cougars early on, going 20-0 in the first quarter. Max Browne completed a pass to Peter Stromgren for the game’s inaugural touchdown and Sean McDonald put the ball between the posts to score his first of four extra points. Browne ran it in for Skyline’s second touchdown. Then, with a minute and a half left in the first quarter, Stromgren scored again for the Spartans’ third touchdown of the night.

“The kids just played lights out today, and I had this feeling we were going to play very well, offensively and defensively, tonight,” Taylor said.

A reason for that feeling, he said, was the excitement of playing in Pop Keeney Stadium, whose 2010 renovation included the state’s second replay-capable scoreboard.

“How we played at the beginning of the year — we played on ESPN and traveling to Idaho — and I felt like kind of getting away from Skyline and coming to this venue, the kids really thrive on it,” Taylor said.

A little over three minutes into the second quarter, Jack Valencia caught a 15-yard pass from Browne in the end zone. The kick by McDonald was good, for 27-0. With just 16 seconds left in the first quarter, Nic Sblendorio caught a pass in the end zone, 34-0.

“It’s not necessarily just the opponent you are playing, you are also playing to get your team’s identity,” Sblendorio said. “With all the work we put in on the offseason, it was just one of those nights where, you know, you’ve worked too hard to crumble in a game like this.”

After a scoreless third quarter, the fourth quarter got under way. The Cougars had worked their way down the field and were about to score when Nate Gibson stopped their receiver dead in his tracks, tackling him on the 1-yard line.

“I saw the receiver coming in and I broke on it,” Gibson said. “I just knew the only thing to do was make the play. Instinct took over. After the game, all the parents were coming over to me and saying, ‘You should have seen how your mom reacted afterward.’ I guess she got up and started dancing in the stands.”

With a little more than three minutes left in the championship game, Bothell’s Sam McPherson made a successful 6-yard run down the left to put the Cougars on the board. Still, with a 27-point lead, Skyline walked away with the title.

“What a lot of people don’t see is the January through August, just all the work we put in and over four years,” said Gibson, a senior at Skyline. “I didn’t contribute too much as a sophomore when we won it, so it’s really special being a part of it, having a role on the team.”

The KingCo title means Skyline has home-field advantage for the 7 p.m. Nov. 3 state playoff game. Skyline’s opponent that night will be the winner of the Oct. 30 game between Kent-Meridian and Puyallup.

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