A Tale of two halves
October 29, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Spartans dig out 30-17 win over pesky Eagles
When the Spartans left their locker room to play the second half of their regular-season finale, they were a different team than the one that entered the room trailing by a touchdown.
Facing the rival Issaquah Eagles with a berth in the KingCo Conference title game on the line, the Spartans struggled in the first 24 minutes. Their offense stalled and committed three turnovers, and they went to the break in a 10-3 hole.
The message from Skyline head coach Mat Taylor was simple, his players indicated: Get motivated, put the ball in the end zone, and take some pressure off the defense.
“The defense was doing their part, but the offense needed to step it up,” senior lineman Josh Wright said.
Skyline found its rhythm and scored 27 straight points in the third quarter to earn a 30-17 victory Oct. 25 at Issaquah High School.
The Spartans (7-1) haven’t lost since their opener with Bellevue, and they’ll face Bothell (7-1) in the Nov. 1 KingCo championship game, a 7 p.m. start at Skyline High.
Bothell has won six straight games after losing to Bellevue in Week 2. The Cougars will be looking to avenge two defeats – 33-21 and 34-7 – to Skyline in 2012.
There wasn’t a magic potion that helped Skyline overcome a slow start, said Chandler Wong, a junior running back who carried 17 times for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“We just decided to pick it up, and we just got a spark in us,” Wong said. “We just got after it in the second half.”
After throwing a pair of interceptions in the first half, Spartans quarterback Kilton Anderson made two big plays to get his team going. He hit Collin Crisp for a 26-yard gain, then scrambled to his right and found Derek Loville in the back right corner of the end zone for a 26-yard score.
Jason Twaddle missed the extra point, keeping Issaquah ahead 10-9, but it was the start of a momentum shift.
On their next series, the Spartans drove 62 yards in nine plays to grab the lead. Wong had a 22-yard catch-and-run, then plowed into the left side of the line for a 3-yard TD.
A year after relying on all-state quarterback Max Browne for the bulk of their offense, the Spartans have evolved into a ground-based attack. Along with Wong’s 65 yards, Anderson carried 11 times for 55 yards and sophomore Rashaad Boddie had 11 touches for 57 yards.
“Our ‘O’ line is really picking it up, and we’re just power running,” Wong said.
The wheels came off for Issaquah (5-3) on its next possession. Quarterback Jack Neary was called for intentional grounding, then threw an interception to Drew Lunde that gave Skyline the ball at the Eagles’ 6-yard line.
On the next play, Boddie scored, and the Spartans’ lead grew to 23-10.
It got worse in the final seconds of the third period as Issaquah muffed a punt return, and Skyline recovered the ball in the end zone.
“We were just our own worst enemy,” Issaquah head coach Chris Bennett said. “You can’t fumble a punt. You can’t throw an interception. It seemed like that third quarter lasted forever, and we were just in that funk and we couldn’t get out.”
Derek Chapman, a senior wide receiver, nearly put the Eagles on his back to get the win. He hauled in seven passes for 147 yards and two scores – a 44-yard bomb in the second quarter and a 7-yard toss early in the fourth. Chapman also had a 57-yard kickoff return.
But after Issaquah narrowed its deficit to 30-17, Skyline was able to run the ball effectively, chew up the clock and rest its defense. Issaquah’s Tommy Nelson barely missed catching what would’ve been a 40-yard TD pass, and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs with less than 5 minutes to play.
Neary had been putting up huge numbers, but Skyline held him to 15-of-28 passing for 182 yards. Behind Wright and Elliott Welnak, the Spartans finished with seven sacks, and they also held Eagles running back Jack Gellatly to 37 yards.
“Once we shut down the run, it was pretty much easy sailing from there,” Wright said.
Issaquah travels to Redmond Nov. 1 for what it hopes is the first game of an extended playoff run. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“We have a lot of disappointed kids, and I know the coaches are frustrated a little bit,” Bennett said. “But like I told them, no one’s going to feel sorry for you. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and we’ve got a week to correct the mistakes, and then we’ve got to go play a loser-out game to qualify for state, and that’s the goal.”
Skyline vs. Bothell
- 7 p.m. Nov. 1
- Skyline High School
Issaquah vs. Redmond
- 7 p.m. Nov. 1
- Redmond High School