Viking junior running back Benen Lawler carries the ball in a game earlier this season. File Photo

Viking junior running back Benen Lawler carries the ball in a game earlier this season. File Photo

NK gridders advance to 2A state semifinals

North Kitsap High School is on its way to the state Class 2A Championship semifinals for the first time in its program’s history.

The third-seeded Vikings qualified for that spot by beating sixth-seed Steilacoom 28-13 Saturday evening in Poulsbo.

North Kitsap will take on Lynden, which pounded seventh-seeded Prosser 54-20 Saturday night. That game will be Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. at Lynden High School.

The winner of that game goes on to the state title game Dec. 4 in Puyallup at Sparks Stadium. The opponent will be the winner between top seed Tumwater and fourth-seed Squalicum. Tumwater walloped ninth seed Enumclaw 55-21 last Friday, while fourth seed Squalicum downed fifth seed Ridgefield 63-38 Saturday.

Against the Sentinels, the Vikings jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, then added a TD and another field goal in the second period to make it 13-0 at halftime. Steilacoom tried to make a game of it in the third period, scoring a TD to cut the lead to 13-7. But the Vikings tallied two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while holding the visitors to one score, so that 15-6 advantage led to the final score.

North Kitsap improved to 11-0, while the Sentinels lost their first game of the year, ending their season at 9-1.

After a short punt, the Vikings got the ball on the Steilacoom 44-yard line. They moved it down to first and goal, but a holding call erased a TD pass. NK had to settle for a field goal to make it 3-0 midway through the first.

The Sentinels used a strong running game to move the ball to a first and goal. But two penalties moved them back, and NK recovered a fumble to start the second quarter.

Viking quarterback Colton Bower went for a 14-yard run, and NK moved it down the field with a pounding running attack. Moving it inside the 10-yard line for a first goal, Bower connected on a 3-yard pass to Lincoln Castillo to make it 10-0.

NK got the ball back on downs, and a facemask and pass interference moved it close enough for the Vikings to kick another field goal before halftime. The play of Sofian Hammou and gang tackling led the Viking defense in shutting out the visitors in the first half.

Four minutes into the second half the Sentinels scored on a 34-yard pass play to cut the lead to 13-7.

NK moved the ball but after Bower passed to Jaxson Gore for a first down the Vikings fumbled the ball away.

But the Vikings got it right back on an interception.

In the fourth quarter, after a few punts by each team, the Vikings gained 22 yards on a pass play. NK moved it inside the 20 then scored on another pass play. After they ran in the two-point conversion, the score moved to 21-7 with six minutes to play.

On Steilacoom’s next possession, the NK defense intercepted again, but the offense was forced to punt.

The Vikings defense forced a desperation pass that ended up with a pick 6 down the left sideline by defensive back Matt Oppliger to put the game away with four minutes left on a 51-yard return.

The Sentinels moved the ball down the field and ran the ball in, but the extra point kick was blocked with 58 seconds left, ending the game.

Turnovers were key to the game as Steilacoom actually outplayed the Vikings statistically – 341 to 266 total yards, 172 yards passing compared with 132 and 169 yards rushing compared to 134. Each team lost a fumble, but the Vikings came up with three interceptions.

Bower did not have one of his better games statistically, connecting on only 42% of his passes. Logan Sloman had five catches for 62 yards and a score, and Castillo had four catches for 46 yards.

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