BREMERTON — It was the first drive of the game and Port Townsend had driven 51 yards on seven plays against Klahowya’s defense, giving the Jefferson County squad an opportunity to take a first quarter lead.
In a crucial regular season game for the Eagles, such a result could have been too much to overcome — their offense had been held to just two touchdowns over the past three games.
But on second and goal from the 9-yard line, Redhawks quarterback Noa Apker-Montoya threw a pass that missed its intended target and settled into the hands of Klahowya junior Andrew Dickson. The young defensive back took off down the sideline with a cadre of blockers, and 99 yards later, he was in the end zone. It was the only touchdown of the game for the Eagles, but it was enough. Their playoff hopes were kept alive with a 7-6 win over Port Townsend.
“We’ll take it,” said Klahowya head coach Dan Ericson. “I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty.”
The defense occasionally bent, but it never broke, which is quite a testament to the level at which they played on Oct. 13 at Silverdale Stadium. The Redhawks made five trips to the red zone, and racked up over 300 yards of offense, but only managed one touchdown. The other four times, the defense came up with a stop.
“A lot of that was from the linemen getting through the blocks and sacking the quarterback, putting pressure on him, pressuring him to make bad throws and putting him ten yards behind the line of scrimmage,” said Dickson following his team’s victory.
Klahowya recorded four sacks and six tackles for a loss, led by junior defensive lineman Ben Schnabel, who recorded two of each. And those numbers are no small feat — the Eagles defense had to contend with the 6’2” junior southpaw Apker-Montoya, who often stood out as one of the biggest players on the field. At the 1A level, his combination of size, speed and agility can be a nightmare to defend.
“He’s is a dynamic player, he’s a good runner and you saw his ability today to make people miss, he’s physical,” said Ericson of the opposing quarterback. “I know, because we’re a spread team, sometimes when spread teams get down closer, it’s hard to punch it in. We just made plays when we needed to.”
But the Redhawks broke through the defense just once — following a Klahowya fumble, Port Townsend marched down the field and running back Dylan Tracer scored a 1-yard touchdown with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Redhawks kicker pulled the extra-point attempt just wide, failing to tie the game.
That was all the Redhawks could muster against Klahowya, despite subsequent trips to the red zone. Late in the fourth quarter in a third-and-goal situation, freshman Hunter Wallis recorded a huge solo tackle, wrapping up Apker-Montoya, who nearly got around the defense on a quarterback sweep. Electing not to attempt a go-ahead field goal, Apker-Montoya completed a screen pass to Tracer, but he was stopped after two yards.
“The defense was out there like crazy, but the kids showed a lot of heart,” said Ericson of his defensive unit. “Port Townsend helped us with a few penalties at key moments — but maybe that’s going to be our new offense, just keep the defense on the out there.”
The Klahowya offense managed only 51 yards in the game. Karsten Martinson was the leading rusher with 23 yards on five carries, and quarterback John Hartford completed five of eight passes for 23 yards. But the group was not able to sustain a drive long enough to give the defense an extended break, gaining very few first downs.
But the victory over Port Townsend gives Klahowya a chance to work out the kinks while still competing for a playoff spot. The Eagles have already played the teams at the top of the standings in the Nisqually League and finish with Coupeville, Bellevue Christian and Chimacum. With a little help, Klahowya could end up in a three-way tie for the second post-season berth with Port Townsend and Charles Wright Academy.
“We’ve always had the ability to score on teams, even when we weren’t that competitive of a team,” said Ericson. “We still had the ability to move the ball, but right now we’re not moving the ball at all and we’re trying different things. Maybe we’re trying too many things and that’s a coaching thing.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.