SILVERDALE — Central Kitsap didn’t get the first touchdown on its new home field, but it did come away with the first victory.
The Cougars fell behind early, but took over in the second quarter behind a powerhouse rushing performance from junior Joshua Willis. They scored 27 unanswered points and their lead back rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries in a 41-17 victory over Olympic in the 42nd Battle of Bucklin Hill.
Willis, a 135-pound back, was as effective running between the tackles as he was jetting out to the edge. He broke off touchdown runs of 42 and 70 yards, but also got the tough yards up the middle.
Much of the preseason chatter about Central Kitsap concerned the talented defensive unit, but Willis powered the unheralded offense to a 413-yard night.
“I had to show them that we can be pretty good too,” Willis said.
Meanwhile, the defense lived up to the hype, holding a high-octane Trojans offense to 178 yards from scrimmage and three points that came on a drive that started inside its own 40 yard line. They held the fort until the offense could get going.
The unit as a whole also flashed its game-breaking ability. With the Cougars up 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, defensive back Flex Rodenhurst stepped in front of a pass and took the interception 75 yards to the house. Nigal Hardee and Eathan Dodson also had picks.
“We knew we could be the spark to our offense,” Hardee said.
The Trojans looked dominant early. On the opening kickoff, Olympic senior Malcolm Dewalt found a crease, bounced to the outside and took the kick 87 yards for a touchdown.
Then on Central Kitsap’s first offensive drive, Dewalt grabbed an errant pass for an interception and took it to the end zone for a 31-yard score. In just five minutes, the Cougars had fallen behind 14-0.
The Olympic defense continued to force mistakes early in the game. Dewalt snagged another interception in the first quarter, and a forced fumble early in the second resulted in a Joshua Kennedy 27-yard field goal.
But once the offense settled down, Central Kitsap took firm control of the game.
First-year quarterback Josh Flaugher got into a good rhythm after a tough start. Flaugher connected with tight end Jeven Keel down the middle of the field for a 17-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cut Olympic’s lead to 17-14. He then rolled to his left and hit sophomore receiver Kalai Pasi for a 17-yard strike just before the end of the first half to give his team a 21-17 lead.
Head coach Mark Keel still considers the offense a work in progress, but it’s a good sign that the game plan worked well and his quarterback was able to identify soft spots in the defense on the fly.
“The biggest thing is, our quarterback has the opportunity to audible,” Keel said. “We know where the bubbles are, he can go to it.”
Rodenhurst’s interception furthered the lead and then Willis broke away for his big 70-yard run. Backup quarterback Cristian Arcangel-Diego also got in on the action, hitting Zachary Webb for a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
“We just have to get better at finishing games,” said Olympic head coach Sal Quitevis. “It’s something we’ve talked about all offseason.”
Central Kitsap 41, Olympic 17
Oly 14 3 0 0 — 17
CK 7 14 0 20 — 41
Oly — Malcolm Dewalt 87 kickoff return (Kennedy kick)
Oly — Dewalt 31 interception return (Kennedy kick)
CK — Joshua Willis 42 run (Cannon kick)
Oly — Joshua Kennedy 27 field goal
CK — Jeven Keel 17 pass from Joshua Flaugher (Cannon kick)
CK — Kalai Pasi 17 pass from Flaugher (Cannon kick)
CK — Flex Rodenhurst 75 interception return (Cannon kick)
CK — Willis 70 run (Cannon kick)
CK — Zachary Webb 35 pass from Cristian Arcangel-Diego (kick miss)
Rushing — CK: J. Willis 36-254, 2 TD; Almonte 1-14, M. Willis 1-7, Flaugher 1-5, Hall 1-3, Henderson 1-2. Oly: Talarico 7-33, Dewalt 8-27, Bailey 3-13, Gillick 4-12, Feistner 2-5, Andrews 2-(-9).
Passing — CK: Flaugher 7-14-89, 2 TD, 2 INT; Arcangel-Diego 1-1-35-1. Oly: Gillick 11-23-89, 3 INT.
Receiving — CK: Almonte 1-36, Webb 1-35, TD; Pasai 3-29, TD; Keel 1-17, TD; Wallis 1-4, M. Willis 1-3. Oly: Johnson 4-26, Talarico 4-25, Turso 1-25, Bailey 1-5, Dewalt 1-3.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.