POULSBO — North Kitsap running back Dax Solis is, by now, well-known as a top-notch running back. As a junior, he earned a spot on the All-League team after posting 13 rushing touchdowns for the Vikings.
But there is one attribute that often takes by surprise some unsuspecting opponents — his ability to punt.
With his team up two scores late in the game Sept. 8, Solis booted a 47-yard punt that pinned Central Kitsap at its own 3-yardline. Although it was not even the longest punt of the night — Central Kitsap’s Caleb Wood smashed one 65 yards that went out of the bounds at the Vikings 1-yardline — the play was a good representation of how well the second half had gone for North Kitsap in its 25-14 win over Central Kitsap at North Kitsap Stadium.
“I’ve always just liked to punt the ball in backyard football and I’ve always kind of had a feel for it,” said Solis. “So once I come to the field, I just act like it’s backyard football and I kick the ball as hard as I can and see where it goes.”
The Vikings trailed 7-0 at halftime, but Solis parlayed his better-known skills into three second-half touchdowns to go along with 170 rushing yards in leading his team to victory over a well-regarded 3A school.
“This doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning on our playoff determination, it is kind of just a battle for the pride of the county,” North Kitsap head coach Jeff Weible said. “We’re two top dogs, so it’s fun to see who comes out on top on a night like this. Both teams played hard, guys were hitting and smacking each other around and I think our guys maybe just wanted it a little bit more.”
Both teams had to overcome some ball security issues on a misty, drizzly night at North Kitsap Stadium. The Vikings fumbled four times in the game, but the defense was able to come up with some big plays against a speedy, athletic Central Kitsap offense.
In the second quarter, already trailing a touchdown, Cougars defensive back Darickus Welborne forced a fumble at the Vikings 1-yardline, the Vikings stood tall at the goal line and ended up sacking quarterback Bradley Dykstra back at the 23-yardline, keeping their opponent from furthering their lead.
“Coach [David] Snyder does a fabulous job of preparing the kids for what they’re going to see on a daily basis and he puts them in positions to make plays,” Weible said.
Solis scored his first touchdown of the game from 16 yards out with 9:39 left in the third quarter following a fumble recovery by junior linebacker Kai Warren. But the Vikings were just getting warmed up.
They took a 12-7 lead on their very next drive when quarterback Andrew Blackmore hit Warren in the back of the end zone on a 26-yard aerial strike. From there, North Kitsap’s star running back took over.
The Vikings scored on their next two drives as well, both on runs by Solis – his final touchdown came on a drive during which Weible called his number seven consecutive times, picking up 54 yards on his way to the end zone.
“We kind of had a slow start at first,” Solis said. “But after halftime, we really started clicking and everyone did their best. I’m so proud of my team right now, I’m just speechless.”
Central Kitsap’s offense had some difficulty getting untracked in the game, though it opened the scoring on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Dykstra to sophomore Ja’Quirious Conley. Dykstra completed nine of 17 passes for 154 yards, but the Cougars’ dynamic running game was held to just 123 yards.
Welborne, who wreaked havoc on the Vikings from his defensive back position in the first half, also scored a 28-yard touchdown that cut his team’s deficit to just six points, but Central Kitsap was unable to muster much offense on its final drives.
“We took care of the ball in the second half,” Weible said. “I think that was probably the difference in the game.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org