TACOMA – Timberline High School isn’t quite ready to concede the Narrows League 3A football championship just yet.
Plagued by injuries and riding a three-game losing streak, the defending league champion Blazers could have easily settled into the role also-ran this season.
A loss to Lincoln, which had done just about everything right while opening the year at 4-0, would have pretty much squashed any hopes of a repeat title.
But, on Friday, a stout defense and the running of Andrew Paquin has Timberline very much in the thick of things.
David Harper returned a fourth quarter interception 45 yards for a touchdown, Paquin ran for 155 yards on 28 carries and the Blazers knocked the Abes from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 26-20 win at Lincoln Bowl.
Timberline (2-3 overall, 1-1 league) sacked Lincoln quarterback Jordan Kitna five times and picked off the sophomore three times, the last coming on Jeff Winstead’s interception at the Blazers 8 with 90 seconds remaining in the game, ending the Abes hopes of a rally.
“This was wild. That’s the only way to describe it,” Winstead said. “We got our swag back tonight.”
Following the Abes’ 53-7 dismantling of North Thurston last week, it looked as if Lincoln was well on its way to its first league title since 1963.
Now, midway through the regular season and the Narrows League 3A is up for grabs with Timberline in excellent position to defend its crown.
“Keep fighting. We’ve said that all year,” Winstead said. “We had the bend, not break defense tonight.”
The Abes dropped to 4-1 and 2-1 in league play.
“We didn’t play our best tonight,” Lincoln coach Jon Kitna said. “We dropped three touchdown passes in the first half and had a lot of unfortunate penalties. Far too many big penalties, drive-stalling penalties. We had some mistakes. We will look at the film and improve.”
Trailing 20-7 early in the fourth quarter, Lincoln finally got its offense on track as J’Maka Love hauled in a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Kitna.
The ensuing PAT was blocked, maintaining the Blazers seven-point lead.
Following Harper’s defensive touchdown, Kitna again connected with Love on another TD pass, this time from 35 yards which pulled the Abes to 26-20.
Timberline attempted to run out the clock, but Marcus Johnson snagged his second interception of the game with three minutes to play, putting Lincoln on offense.
The Abes marched inside the red zone, but Winstead’s pick sealed it.
Timberline’s defense struggled the last three weeks but frustrated the Abes, registering three sacks in the first half and holding Lincoln’s quick-strike offense in check to take a 20-7 halftime lead.
Lincoln had run roughshod through its first four opponents, averaging 51 points per game. The Blazers, however, hounded the Abes through the first two quarters with David Harper and Winstead each coming up with sacks and Brennon Kaleiwahea recovering a fumble at the Abes 45.
Nine plays after Kaleiwahea’s recovery, Gabe Gutierrez tossed his second touchdown pass of the game, a 4-yarder to Winstead to put the Blazers up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Lincoln cut the deficit in half after Johnson returned a Gutierrez interception 25 yards for a touchdown, marking the sixth time this season Lincoln has scored on defense or special teams.
Timberline quickly answered the Abes score, getting a 53-yard run from Paquin on its next series, which Markell Barnes capped with a 4-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter, pushing the Blazers advantage to 20-6.
At Wilson 29, North Thurston 9: Solid defense helped catapult Wilson, which held run-oriented North Thurston to 21 yards rushing, to the top of the Narrows League 3A standings with a victory at Stadium Bowl.
North Thurston (3-2 overall, 1-2 in league) had six three-and-out drives. Matt Longnecker’s 31-yard field goal in the first quarter was North Thurston’s only lead of the game.
Isaiah Simpson’s 10-yard touchdown scamper gave Wilson (5-0, 3-0) a 15-3 lead with four minutes remaining in the first half. And Simpson’s 65-yard kickoff return to open the second half set up Julius Yates-Brown’s 11-yard scoring run.
At Capital 50, Centralia 6: The Cougars won their first game thanks in part to Jakob Racimo’s two catches, two sacks, and a blocked punt – all in the first quarter – in their 2A Evergreen Conference win over the Tigers (2-3) on Homecoming Night at Ingersoll Stadium.
The Cougars (1-4 overall) capitalized on four first-half forced turnovers and converted all of them into touchdowns.
Rochester 49, at Elma 14: The Warriors (4-1) held Elma to 55 yards of total offense in the first half, led by Tyler Yarber’s 104 first-half yards and two rushing touchdowns, en route to the 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division win.
At Tenino 56, Rainier 7: The Beavers (2-3) earned their second straight win in convincing fashion to win the 507 Trophy against the Mountaineers.
At Foss 28, Shelton 0: Chris Reynolds caught a touchdown pass, and his 62-yard interception return for a score in the second quarter put the Falcons in control at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
Central Kitsap 23, at Yelm 14: The Tornados (3-2, 1-1) couldn’t hold a 14-10 lead in losing in the Narrows League 4A play for the first time this season.