LACEY — The Timberline Blazers can taste the 3A Narrows League title despite a three-game losing streak earlier this season.
Behind the running game of Jeff Winstead and Andrew Paquin, the Blazers not only topped North Thurston, 34-7, in the annual Lacey Showdown on Friday night at South Sound Stadium, but they’re in control for the league title.
Because of Lincoln’s victory over Wilson on Friday, the Blazers now sit tied atop the league standings at 4-1 with Lincoln, but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against Abes because of Timberline’s win over Lincoln, 26-20.
Should the Blazers beat Shelton on the road next week, they’ll be the Narrows’ No. 1 seed and host a Week 10 district playoff game.
A Blazers win plus a Lincoln loss, Timberline wins the league championship outright.
It’s a far different outcome for a Timberline (5-3 overall) team that at one point was 1-3 after Week 4.
“We’re past that,” said Winstead, who accounted for a team-best 112 yards rushing and had a pair of touchdowns. “We went through a lot of adversity, but hey, we haven’t given up. ... We’re right back up there and right back up to where we should be.”
Timberline, winners of four games in a row, raced out to a 22-0 halftime lead, scoring touchdowns on three of its five possessions by Winstead (1-yard run) and Andrew Paquin (15, 4 yards).
Leading 14-0 late in the second quarter, Paquin’s 15-yard run came with 17 seconds left in the half after Steve Cleveland’s 40-plus yard punt return set up short field position for the Blazers.
Three plays later after his run set up a first-and-goal from the 5, Paquin went up the middle nearly untouched for the score that put Timberline up, 22-0, after the successful two-point conversion.
All three scoring drives took seven or fewer plays to execute.
Its largest lead was 34-0 on Winstead’s second touchdown, a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. Cleveland caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Turnovers and poor field position plagued the Rams. They committed three turnovers and punted six times, including four times on thier five first-half drives.
The Rams avoided the shutout with Luke Yanna’s 4-yard touchdown catch with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
It’s been a disappointing month for the Rams, who have lost four of their past five games.
The loss ends North Thurston’s playoff hopes a year after advancing to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. The Rams end the season Thursday when North Thurston hosts winless Mount Tahoma.