POULSBO — More than 10 minutes after their season-ending game against Kingston Junior High had ended on Nov. 1, the Poulsbo Junior High football team had the energy for one more play.
More than a dozen players chased and caught Dean Maleski — their own head coach — and emptied the water bucket on his head.
Since it was an earlobe-freezing October night, Maleski’s cries of disapproval were only half-feigned.
But since his Panthers rolled to a 26-6 win over their rivals from Kingston, Maleski said he would be happy to take such a shower every year.
“It feels good,” Maleski said, with a few drops still drying on his jacket and hair.
He added: “That water’s getting cold now.”
The Panthers had jumped out to a fast start Friday night when running back Jerrell Smith burst free from the middle of the line of scrimmage and streaked to a 48-yard touchdown run on Poulsbo’s first drive.
The Panthers added to the lead minutes later, after Kingston had gone three-and-out, when a drive was capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by Ben Hylland.
They added another touchdown before halftime on a long drive aided by a 25-yard run by Smith.
Kingston briefly stalled Poulsbo’s momentum when a swarm of Cavalier defenders rushed quarterback Jeff Otelle.
But the Cavaliers were hampered by a pair of personal fouls, and the Panthers took advantage with a 5-yard touchdown run by Smith and a successful kick that made it 20-0.
After halftime came and went, the Panthers pieced together one more long drive.
The drive was aided by a 17-yard burst by Smith and a 12-yard gain by Otelle on a quarterback keeper.
Smith got his third touchdown of the evening on a 31-yard sweep up the right side, and Poulsbo held a 26-0 lead.
But as the clock wound down, the Cavaliers erased the shutout.
In the game’s final few seconds, quarterback Jordan Prince fired a long pass downfield to J’styn Guerrero.
Guerrero caught the ball and took advantage of his momentum to bull into the end zone for the game’s last play.
Kingston coach Tony Chisholm said the key of the game was simple.
“They out hit us, out blocked us, and controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense,” said Chisholm, whose Cavaliers suffered their first losing season in five years.
He added, “We threw everything at them, and they just controlled everything.”
Maleski said the Panthers’ success on the ground was no shock.
“We’ve been able to run against everyone, if we execute,” he said.
The Panthers ended the season 4-2, and the Cavaliers went 2-4.