PUYALLUP — Surveying the scene at Sparks Stadium on the evening of Oct. 21, players and coaches observed a driving rainstorm, occasionally howling winds and chilly temperatures — conditions making for a difficult night for South Kitsap and fellow winless opponent Emerald Ridge to erase the zero from the win column.
In the end, the Jaguars were victorious on Homecoming and Senior Night, using a power running game to defeat the Wolves, 19-3, including a touchdown that came with four seconds remaining in the game.
‘From a building standpoint, from a culture standpoint, we are moving in the right direction,” said South Kitsap head coach Cory Vartanian. “Our kids are getting better. Unfortunately, the score is not reflecting that, and that’s what a lot of people see.”
On a sloppy night in which the two teams combined to fumble the football six times, Emerald Ridge turned to its hulking senior, Mosiah Liu, to carry the offense. Listed as a tight end and defensive lineman, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 265 pounds, he led the Jaguars with 128 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Liu found the end zone on Emerald Ridge’s first drive of the game, crashing through the line for a two-yard score. The touchdown was set up well by a trick play where quarterback Tyler Martin lateralled the ball to Liu, who sent it back. That allowed sophomore tight end Javon Charles to get open down the field for a 34-yard gain.
By contrast, South Kitsap was without its own bruiser, senior Izaiah Davis, as well as its ultra-quick top receiver, Quinn Ogan. Sophomore Deyondre Davis filled in gamely, carrying the ball 25 times for 95 yards, often being asked to go straight up the middle despite his smaller stature.
“They have to play in the same conditions as us,” Vartanian said. “However, they’re more of a ground game team. So we obviously had to switch some things up. We were limited offensively with what we could execute with the weather conditions, but we’re not looking at that as an excuse.”
Kicker Kyle Failing scored South Kitsap’s only points of the game on a 27-yard field goal with 3:40 remaining in the half. The score was 6-3 and was still very much up for grabs.
But after a South Kitsap fumble late in the third quarter, Emerald Ridge was able to give its lead some padding. On the first play of the fourth quarter, running back Jakob Hausenauer broke away from the defense for a 61-yard rushing touchdown.
Emerald Ridge senior Christian Wilson-Garcia, on only his third carry of the season, added a 4-yard touchdown run as the clock wound down to zeroes.
“The turnovers cost us,” Vartanian said. “The defense played a heck of a game. We caused three or four turnovers ourselves.”
The end result is a South Kitsap squad still looking for its first win of the season. The Wolves will return home for its final scheduled game against a 3-5 Curtis team, and then await the announcement of their Week 10 opponent.
“We don’t have ‘quit’ in us and our kids are going to play with class, that’s what we’re going to do,” Vartanian said. “Those are the two things we can walk away with this year — we played classy and we did not give up, we did not quit in one second of any quarter.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.