Hayden Maliska is not one to shy away from contact when he’s carrying the football.
Never was that more evident than late in the first half of North Thurston’s season opener against visiting Steilacoom.
With valuable seconds ticking away, the senior appeared to be stopped 5 yards short of the end zone, a trio of defenders draped over him.
Maliska never stopped driving his legs, remaining upright and carrying a host of Sentinels across the goal line.
A smash-mouth ground game appears to be the Rams calling card this year.
Maliska ran for 148 yards and two scores, Josh Ramirez rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and North Thurston knocked off Steilacoom, 41-26, in a non-league matchup Saturday at South Sound Stadium.
“I am so proud of how this team battled tonight,” North Thurston coach Rocky Patchin said. “We have some kids banged up. We have so many fresh faces out there and a lot of guys going both ways and playing special teams. The kids were tired at the end, but they came to play.”
The Rams appeared to have things well in hand, up 34-12 midway through the fourth quarter.
Steilacoom, however, made things interesting, getting a 20-yard touchdown from Michael Mack and a 45-yard score from Brian Thomas to cut the deficit
to 34-26 with 4 minutes to play.
Maliska and Ramirez took over from there, taking turns chalking up big chunks of yardage while running out the clock before Maliska sealed the game with a 24-yard touchdown run.
“It’s nice to have those two running the ball for us,” Patchin said. “We got some big plays out of them tonight.”
North Thurston scored three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the second quarter, cappd by Maliska’s 5-yard scamper, to post a 20-6 lead at halftime.
All the Rams’ success came on the ground, and two of the TDs came off Steilacoom turnovers as Alex Rice recovered a pair of Sentinels fumbles.
Trailing 6-0, Ramirez put the Rams on the scoreboard with a 3-yard TD.
Josh Mosquera added a 16-yard score four minutes later, pushing North Thurston’s lead to 13-6.
Ramirez and Mosquera would each add third-quarter touchdowns on runs of 35 and 10 yards, respectively, to increase the lead to 34-12 late in the third quarter.