BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — The first big moment of Friday night’s football game between North Kitsap and Bainbridge may have come through the air, but it was the plays on the ground that settled it.
The Vikings were burned by a 57-yard halfback pass on the first play of the game — the first between the regional rivals in 11 years — but responded with a seven-TD outpouring on their way to a 45-19 win.
Six of NK’s touchdowns came on the ground. Nic Stearns scored three rushing touchdowns, while Jeremiah Doehne added two and Andy Sturza notched the longest scoring play of the game, a 60-yard scamper in the first quarter.
“Stearns and Doehne and Sturza had pretty good games,” said North Kitsap head coach Jerry Parrish. “The game confirmed what I suspected. When you spread them out, the kids can run to the outside.”
It was the first meeting between the two football rivals since 1992.
The Spartans struck during the first play from scrimmage: Quarterback Joe Picha flipped the ball to Grant Leslie, and Leslie fired a pass to receiver Michael Ersser for a 57-yard gain.
Bainbridge’s drive ended with an interception by NK defensive back Doehne, but a NK fumble two plays later gave the Spartans the ball and excellent field position.
They scored a touchdown when Picha hit Zach Ainsley for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
“After they scored, it was better. We didn’t come out cocky,” Doehne said later.
North Kitsap’s first score came only two and a half minutes later when running back Sturza scampered around the left end, took advantage of a pair of blocks and sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown run.
Stearns’ first TD, a 53-yard run that started after he plunged through the middle of the offensive line, followed in the first quarter.
The Vikings tried to add a third TD as the final minute of the half ticked off the clock, but a formidable drive — including 60 yards of passing by junior QB Jared Prince — was cut short by a sack from Spartans’ defensive end Blake Jensen.
North’s 12-6 lead was extended in the second half when a Stearns touchdown ended a drive that began with a 30-yard kickoff return by Doehne.
Also in the second quarter, Prince hit receiver Travis Tobin with a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Bainbridge (0-1) scored twice in the fourth quarter, once on a short TD run by Derek Houston and again on a 24-yard touchdown run by Leslie. Two of NK’s final three touchdown runs were scored by Doehne, both of them 14-yard scampers.
The final score for the Vikings (1-0) came from Stearns, who performed a 360-degree spin while breaking away from potential tacklers on his way to a 53-yard touchdown run.
After the game, Stearns claimed that work with running backs coach Roy Swift has helped him improve.
“We do 90-degree cuts, side steps; everything helps,” Stearns said.
The pupil was happy with his teacher and the converse was true as well.
“I loved what I saw tonight,” Swift said.
NOTES: The game between North and Bainbridge became possible when a 10th game was added to the high-school football season. The 10th game will be evaluated this year and may be kept or discarded depending on the results… Bainbridge Island plays its league games in the 3A Metro League, while NK competes in the 4A Narrows League… While many Vikings had good games, Doehne’s was the most symmetrical; he had two interceptions as a defensive back to match his two TDs as a halfback… North will host Kelso at 7 p.m. Sept. 12. Kelso was idle this week, but beat NK 25-7 when they met in the first game of the 2002 season.