BREMERTON – “One man down, next man up,” chanted by Bremerton High School players following their decisive opening night victory, best described their recipe for success.
A seemingly endless supply of running backs slashed and dashed their way through the opposing defense, churning out 432 yards on the ground Aug. 31 as the 2A Knights defeated 1A Klahowya 45-6 at Silverdale Stadium.
From the opening kickoff, the Bremerton Wing-T could not be stopped.
The first man up was junior Rasheed Joiner, who scored the opening touchdown from six yards out on the Knights’ first possession. He left the game with an injury in the first quarter and was seen with ice around his ankle after the game, but his teammates were more than ready to fill his shoes.
Senior running back Sema’J Cook was that proverbial “next man up” and he led all players with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. After the Knights intercepted Klahowya on its first possession, they marched right back down the field and Cook punctuated the drive with a 10-yard score to give his team a 13-0 lead.
“We were a little choppy in the first half,” said Bremerton head coach Paul Theriault.
“We’d like to smooth it out a little, but we had a couple of dings. The guys who stepped in did a great job.”
There were also big contributions from juniors Ryan Saylor and Brock Criss. Saylor tossed a touchdown pass on a halfback option and also added 76 yards and a score on the ground. Criss scored twice in the second half as part of an 89-yard performance.
“I’m very proud,” Saylor said following the game. “On Tuesday, we weren’t looking so sharp, but when we came back Wednesday we had a great practice. I could not have expected anything more.”
But if there was one weak point for Bremerton on opening night, it was the number of infractions committed, especially during the first half. Three Knights touchdowns were erased on penalties, though each time they were able to score on a subsequent play.
“We have to be conscious of what’s going on,” Theriault said. “We had some unnecessary stuff and we’ll go over it on the film.”
The Knights also had a botched snap on a punt attempt that gave the Eagles favorable field position for a chance to cut the deficit. It was only 13-0 at the time, and a touchdown could have changed the game’s momentum. But senior defensive back Chase Blackwell’s goal-line interception put an end to the threat and the Knights continued to roll instead.
“Our best defensive stand tonight was when they drove right down to the goal line and we punched them back out,” Theriault said.
Bremerton went ahead 19-0 just before the end of the first half on the halfback option pass. Saylor took the handoff from quarterback Max Boekenoogen, ran right and floated a ball to a wide-open Troy Saunders in the end zone.
Two rushing touchdowns in the second half from Criss and one from Cook and Saylor bloated the Knights lead to 45-0.
The last two matchups between these squads had been classics, but in this game, the Eagles looked the part of a younger, less experienced team — Klahowya graduated 29 seniors off their roster last spring. They finally broke through on the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter.
On fourth-and-10, junior receiver Jacob Keppert made a terrific leaping catch in traffic for a 28-yard gain. On the next play, quarterback John Hartford rolled left and hit receiver Chase Hampton for an 11-yard touchdown.
Bremerton (1-0) opens its home schedule by welcoming Woodrow Wilson High School on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.
Klahowya (0-1) travels to North Mason for another non-league test on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group, Contact him at email@example.com.