The play, new to the Capital High School game plan Friday, is called by various names, but it might as well be called “Chris Penner open deep.”
In coaching parlance, the play was “available” to the Cougars against Gig Harbor’s defense. It clicked for first-half touchdown passes of 52 and 65 yards from senior quarterback Carson Bertelli to Penner, who was wide open in each case in the middle of the field.
Penner had four touchdown catches in all — in the first half — and the Cougars rode early dominance to a 49-17 Class 3A South Sound Conference victory at Ingersoll Stadium.
“The chemistry, especially on offense, is getting a lot better,” Penner said, noting his working relationship with Bertelli, who took over early in the season after starter Grant Erickson was injured.
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With the victory, the Cougars (5-3, 4-2 3A SSC) earned no worse than a tie for one of the league’s four spots in the West Central District playoffs.
“The defense has been good,” Capital coach John Johnson said, “and we’ve gotten better on offense the last few weeks. We’ve got the run game going, which we hadn’t had … yeah, we’re excited.”
Gig Harbor (4-4, 3-3) is still in the playoff picture, but will need a victory over North Thurston in its final regular season game next week to ensure a spot.
Bertelli’s third touwchdown pass showed off Penner’s athleticism. The 5-foot-10 sophomore came back against the grain between two Gig Harbor defenders, caught the underthrown ball and broke a tackle at the 5-yard line to finish off a 50-yard scoring play.
Penner’s fourth touchdown — which tied Capital’s school record for touchdown catches in a half — came on a 10-yard pass from junior wide receiver Jack Collard. Penner also threw for a 21-yard gain to Chase Martin on the drive.
Penner’s 192 yards on seven receptions was also a school record.
More Penner: His interception on defense just in bounds at the pylon stymied a serious Gig Harbor threat and set up a Cougars march that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Nathan Tyler, the second of three touchdowns for Tyler in the game.
Yet more Penner: He kicked seven extra points in the game.
After Eric Jackson did the heavy work on the ground on the Cougars’ first possession (seven carries for 51 yards, including a 28-yard run), Tyler took the handoff and covered the last seven yards to the end zone as Capital jumped ahead, 7-0.
Bertelli got the Cougars back on the scoreboard in a hurry after a Gig Harbor three-and-out, finding Penner for the 52-yard touwchdown strike. Bertelli’s 65-yarder to Penner came after sophomore Logan Kinney got the Tides on the board with a 32-yard field goal.
The Tides trimmed Capital’s lead to 21-10 on a 17-yard scoring throw from Ben Hollenbeck to Kellen Gregory.
Gig Harbor got its final points on a 1-yard run by quarterback Ryan Baerg.