The Central Kitsap High football team had a whole lot of time to ponder its final two games of the season as COVID-19 protocols knocked them out of action for two weeks in the middle of the season.
At a time when the Cougars would normally be getting primed and ready to make a final push for a playoff spot in the South Sound Conference, coaches and players were left to their own devices instead.
“Nothing, it was crazy,” said head coach Mark Keel. “We couldn’t do anything.”
Although it is currently unclear how the league will deal with seeding for the district round — especially since Central Kitsap missed out on two league games — but in the event of a three-way tie for the final two spots between Central Kitsap, Timberline and Gig Harbor, the results of Friday night’s games certainly went in the local team’s favor.
The Cougars roared past winless North Thurston, 61-7 at home, while Gig Harbor beat Timberline, 31-26. The three teams are now 1-1 this season against one another, and if the point differential in those games is used as a tiebreaker, Central Kitsap at plus-3 — they beat Gig Harbor by six points and lost to Timberline by three — while Timberline would sit at minus-2 and Gig Harbor would be left out at minus-1.
Of course, Central Kitsap can render all of that math academic if they go out and beat first-place Yelm Friday night at home. The Tornadoes are 7-0 this season, including an early win over Lincoln, the Pierce County League champions.
“I had a lot of time to watch them see what they’re doing,” Keel said. “We took advantage of that opportunity as well.”
The players didn’t look rusty coming off that break last Friday as they dashed through the Rams defense early and often in that 61-7 win. Running back Kouper Hall went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season in just his fifth game, as he carried the ball 17 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Hall said. “Especially not that early.”
In fact, the big plays started right off the bat as Josiah Johnson returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. And as the defense limited North Thurston to just two yards from scrimmage in the first half, the offense was scoring at will.
The first three offense drives all ended in touchdowns for the Cougars, with quarterback Kalai Pasi scoring all of them. Once a young possession receiver for the team, Pasi has blossomed into a terrific dual-threat signal-caller. He used his legs to score touchdowns of 38, 30 and 50 yards to open up a 27-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Pasi finished the night with 125 rushing yards on seven carries.
The parade to the end zone continued in the second quarter. In fact, because the running clock rule was invoked in the second half, all but three drives ended in points for Central Kitsap, and the team didn’t have to punt until the fourth quarter.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Hall sliced through the defense for gains of 24, 10 and 13 yards before punching in his first score from three yards out. Following a North Thurston punt, Hall’s first run went for 27 yards and his second was a 30-yard touchdown. Jason Bryant added a 12-yard score before the end of the half and the Cougars led 47-7.
With 219 yards at halftime and Hall 73 yards short of 1,000 for the season, he got the chance to reach his milestone as he continued to rack up big gains. His third touchdown came toward the end of the third quarter on a 23-yard run, and he eclipsed 1,000 with a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth.
The defense didn’t grab as many headlines, but they limited North Thurston to just 53 yards from scrimmage. Kelvin Gardner had six solo tackles, including three for a loss, and Easton Herdman had four solo tackles, including two for a loss. Caleb Anderson had an interception and Owen Meadows nabbed a fumble as well.
The team turns its attention to Yelm this week, a team with which it has had an interesting recent history. In 2017, a strong team went on the road looking for a win to jump into second place in the league, which would have given them a chance to host a home playoff game. Instead, the Tornadoes torpedoed their hopes and knocked them out of the playoff hunt with a 35-28 win.
”I think if we stick to what we know we can do, and do it well, I think we have a really good shot,” Hall said.
Central Kitsap 61, North Thurston 7
North Thurston 0 7 0 0 — 7
Central Kitsap 27 20 7 7 — 61
Central Kitsap — Josiah Johnson 85 kick return (Daniel Sousou kick)
Central Kitsap — Kalai Pasi 38 run (kick failed)
Central Kitsap — Pasi 30 run (kick failed)
Central Kitsap — Pasi 50 run (Collin Gray-Gatch pass from Pasi)
Central Kitsap — Kouper Hall 3 run (Caden Warren kick)
Central Kitsap — Hall 30 run (Warren kick)
North Thurston — Julian Lee 57 interception return (Glenn Kolibas kick)
Central Kitsap — Jason Bryant 12 run (kick failed)
Central Kitsap — Hall 23 run (Waren kick)
Central Kitsap — Hall 26 run (Warren kick)
Passing — Central Kitsap: Pasi 2-7-16, INT. North Thurston: No. 9 (not on roster) 1-2-29; Bowser 2-6-10, INT; Anglin 0-3-0; Larson 0-1-0.
Rushing — Central Kitsap: Hall 17-304, 4 TDs; Pasi 7-125, 3 TDs; Bryant 4-36, TD; Johnson 3-13; Baisler 1-2; Stringfield 1(-1). North Thurston: Hernandez 12-26; Bowser 3-5; Anglin 4-4; Calabrese 1-0; No. 12 (not on roster) 2-(-2); Price 1-5; Escene 5-(-14).
Receiving — Central Kitsap: Hall 1-11; Guy 1-5. North Thurston: Godines 1-29; Escene 1-6; Calabrese 1-4.