POULSBO — It was almost a ghoulish Halloween for the North Kitsap Vikings last Thursday and not just because the Shelton cheerleaders arrived dressed like Brides of Frankenstein, complete with towering hair and blackened eyes.
The Shelton Highclimbers fought to a 14-13 lead in the third quarter before the Vikings scored twice to win 27-14.
“We played the worst game we’ve played all season,” said Vikings fullback James Smith. “We weren’t mentally prepared to play this game.”
Neither team seemed sharp early on the bone-chilling October evening; the Highclimbers were plagued by fouls, and the Vikings fumbled a pair of punt returns to turn the ball over.
North Kitsap finally scored halfway through the first. After quarterback Jared Prince hit tight end Chase Dukes for an 18-yard reception, Smith punched the ball in from 24 yards out, wobbling slightly when a defender tried to tackle him before righting himself and reaching the end zone.
A Patrick Gilbert kick made the North Kitsap lead 7-0.
North Kitsap stretched the lead wider in the second quarter when Prince, playing safety, got his hands on a tipped pass by Highclimbers quarterback Jeff Kieburtz and sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown.
The kick missed, but now the Vikings led 13-0.
The Highclimbers, however, were ready to throw a Halloween scare into their opponents from North Kitsap.
First came a long drive late in the second quarter, when Shelton quarterback T.K. McIntosh drilled a long pass to running back Gordie Philpott, then followed it with a screen pass to Isiah Taito, who scampered up the left sideline for a 15-yard touchdown.
Shelton’s Stephen Gardner hit the kick, and the score was 13-7.
In the second half, the Highclimbers took the lead when McIntosh threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Philpott, who caught the ball over his shoulder to give Shelton a 14-13 lead.
Shelton’s second touchdown made the Vikings get down to business, Smith said.
“After that,” he said, “we were fired up.”
The Vikings responded, immediately starting a seven-minute drive, during which Smith carried the ball eight times (including six carries in a row). North Kitsap scored when Jared Prince faked a handoff, then ducked into a hole created by the offensive line and emerged, unscathed, in the end zone five yards away.
A successful two-point conversion gave North a 21-14 lead, and they added to it later in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith.
The Vikings won 27-14, and the win guaranteed them a perfect season at home, and a winning record.
Shelton’s head coach, Matt Hinkle, said the 1-7 Highclimbers hurt themselves with penalties, including 10 first-half flags.
“I think we had every penalty that’s conceivable,” said Hinkle.
As for North Kitsap head coach Jerry Parrish, he was glad the Vikings were able to overcome a poor start to reach their goal of an undefeated season at home and a trip to the postseason.
“The kids came back and played really well,” he said. “The fun starts now.”