Unfinished drives end NK’s title hopes as Tumwater wins 19-17

Down by two points North Kitsap looked poised to make a play that would send it back to state 2A championships and avenge its only loss of the season.

But two bad plays ended those hopes: a third-down sack of Viking quarterback Cole Edwards that took them out of the red zone and a 48-yard field goal attempt that turned into a mad scramble by the holder.

“Tumwater is a storied program,” NK coach Jeff Weible said. “They find ways to hurt ya, and how that drive ended certainly hurt us badly.”

The Viking offense never touched the ball again as the Thunderbirds ran the remaining six-plus minutes off the clock for a 19-17 win.

Weible choked back tears after the game, proud of his squad for coming so close just two months after NK was beaten 34-14 on its home turf by the T-birds.

“They gave me everything they’ve got,” he said. “They’re great at what they do, and they’re tremendous human beings.”

The semifinal was a tale of two halves. The first was low-scoring and full of turnovers. The Thunderbirds made the most of their opening drive, demonstrating a powerful running game in a 10-play, 65-yard effort that ended with a touchdown from Kooper Clark.

NK attempted to answer, but the Vikings stalled in Tumwater territory, turning it over on downs.

The turnovers came in abundance after that: a Viking interception, a fumble from Tumwater and a tipped pass caught by a Viking offensive lineman, only for it to be fumbled again.

The Vikings finally broke through in the second quarter, Edwards launching a 40-yard pass to senior wideout Logan Sloman to tie the game.

A missed Tumwater field goal would keep the score knotted at halftime.

The Vikings began the second half with a long drive of its own, taking off nearly half the time of the third quarter. The drive stalled, but a 25-yard field goal kept the offense from leaving the field empty-handed.

Tumwater struck back immediately, orchestrating a drive on the back of its running game that saw the senior Clark score his second touchdown. The home team missed its extra point.

But the Viking offense answered with another long passing strike. This one found the hands of junior Lelond Anderson for a 58-yard score, giving NK the lead once more.

The Thunderbirds controlled the ball the rest of the third quarter and finished a 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter’s opening minutes. Clark again punched it in for what would become the game-winning score. Another missed PAT kept the lead at just two points. But when NK drove into Tumwater’s red zone for a possible winning field goal, those two disastrous plays occurred.

It was a tough pill to swallow for Weible, who could only watch and wonder what could have been if not for those two plays. It was the third straight year NK has been in the final four and walked away without a title.

“My heart goes out to the seniors,” Weible said. “When we lost that first game (this year to Tumwater), we had to find an identity again, and we did. We got back here, something not too many teams have done. I wish I could give my seniors more tonight.”