LACEY — The first three downs were rarely short of action, but all the fourth-down drama – most of it by the Foss Falcons – played the biggest role in Timberline High’s 19-13 victory Friday night at South Sound Stadium.
Stevie Cleveland’s 92-yard touchdown return of the second-half kickoff gave Timberline a lead it wouldn’t give up, but it was Foss’s misadventures on fourth down – a botched punt and a 4th-and-long fumble – that led directly to two short-field scores for the Blazers.
In all, the Blazers stopped the Falcons three times on 4th-and-go-for-it situations, one of which blunted a Falcon drive at the one-yard –line.
“No excuses,” Foss coach Pat Johnson said. “We had our opportunities and we couldn’t cash in.”
“We just gotta keep climbing the hill,” Timberline coach Nick Mullen said.
Foss’s Alonzo Jones made a touchdown-saving ankle tackle to end Andrew Paquin’s 61-yard run on Timberline’s first possession of the game.
After the long run, the Foss interior defense, led by 340-pound Tray Williams and 293-pound Patiole Pesefea, stoned the Blazers on two running plays for minus-3 yards before Paquin fumbled it away, ending the threat.
Remember Pesefea: After a fumbled snap on a Blazer punt late in the first quarter, the Falcons took over at the Timberline 24. Quarterback Isaiah Littlejohn gained two yards on 4th-and-1 at the Timberline 15, and an offside penalty moved it to the 8. At that point, Pesefea channeled his inner William Refrigerator Perry, plowing five yards and then the final three for the touchdown.
After a Blazer run play from punt formation was stopped short, the Falcons’ own miscue on fourth down led to Timberline’s only score of the first half. On a fourth-and-1 at the Blazers’ 44, Littlejohn couldn’t handle a high snap, then kicked it in trying to recover it, and when the ball came to rest, it was at the Falcons’ 12, 44 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Jeff Winstead carried five yards to the 4, a personal foul on Foss moved it to the 1, and Winstead packed it in from there. The extra point kick failed, and Foss led 7-6 at the half.
The Blazers’ Stevie Cleveland turned that around in a hurry, taking the second-half kickoff at his 8-yard-line and cruising 92 yards for the touchdown. Teammate Chris Barnes kept the last Falcon with a chance at bay for the last 20 yards to paydirt.
Yet another Foss miscue on a punt try – a low snap that punter Nick Burton couldn’t handle – set the Blazers up with a short field at the Falcon 22. A 14-yard scamper by Paquin set up quarterback Gabe Gutierrez’s three-yard TD run, and Javon Watson’s extra point made it 19-7 Timberline.
After John Moore replaced Littlejohn (who left with a head injury) at quarterback, the Falcons clicked on a long drive spanning the third and fourth quarters. Four Moore completions to Chris “Scooby” Reynolds totaling 30 yards had the Falcons in good shape at the Timberline 5.
Pesefea entered again for goal-line duty, but the Blazers countered with their finest defensive moment. After Pesefea carried for one yard for a first down at the 4, he carried twice more for a yard each. Moore kept for a gain of one before Pesefea was stopped again on fourth down.
The Falcons weren’t done. Moore found Reynolds for a 46-yard quick-strike TD to draw within 19-13.
The Falcons’ last possession ended on an interception with less than two minutes in the game as Timberline held on.