LACEY – In a close game, the play stood out as a turning point.
An interception of a Lincoln pass from punt formation near the end of the first half set up a go-ahead touchdown for Timberline, and the Blazers went on to a 28-13 Narrows League 3A victory at South Sound Stadium on Friday night.
It would be far from the only misadventure on fourth down for the Abes, while Timberline took advantage almost every time.
“The first half was crazy,” Timberline coach Nick Mullen said. “It was a weird feeling. I couldn’t explain it. Then, we started playing our game.”
Timberline (4-1 overall, 2-0 Narrows) drew first blood on a 22-yard scoring pass from Gabriel Gutierrez to Malachi Jones, set up by an Timberline senior linebacker Brandon Wetzel’s interception of Lincoln quarterback J’Maka Love.
Love responding by moving the Abes 55 yards in 10 plays, aided by two major penalties on the Blazers, and after an 11-yard scamper to the 2, Love kept again for a 1-yard touchdown.
Lincoln (3-2, 1-1) jumped ahead early in the second quarter when Love threw an 18-yard scoring pass to Kashawn Johnson after the Abes’ Mark Alapati, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman, intercepted Gutierrez and rumbled to the Blazers’ 33.
Timberline took a one-point lead into halftime after Love, also the Abes’ punter, faked the kick and floated a pass downfield. Wetzel easily grabbed it out of the air, his second interception of the half, and returned it to the Lincoln 15. On the next play, Trent Gallagher cruised around left end virtually untouched into the end zone.
Lincoln coach Jon Kitna decided to go for it again on fourth down in his own territory on the first series of the second half. And it failed. Love kept the ball on a fourth-and-3 play and was snowed under by a batch of Blazers for a loss of 6.
Timberline made the field position pay off. Spencer Crump sprinted 23 yards to the 2, from where Jeff Winstead pushed it across to give the Blazers a 21-13 lead.
Lincoln’s travails on fourth-down plays continued minutes later, this time on a Timberline punt when Abes returner Tavon Murray lost the handle.
Stevie Cleveland, who had two of Timberline’s four first-half interceptions, scooped up the fumble at the Lincoln 25 and ran unimpeded to the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, a bad snap on a Lincoln punt on fourth-and-23 set the Blazers up at the Lincoln 3.
A blizzard of penalties ensued, and when the smoke cleared Javon Walker, who was flawless on four extra-point kicks, missed a 22-yard field goal.