Timberline High School football coach Mike Spears wrapped it up with one sentence when he addressed his players in their postgame meeting.
Peninsula had first-and-goal at the 3-yard line with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining. First-and-goal, and a chance to take a late lead in the Class 3A South Sound Conference championship game.
“Four tries, from the (3),” Spears exclaimed. “And you kept them out.”
The Blazers held on a goal-line stand in the dwindling seconds and escaped, 7-3, handing the fourth-ranked Seahawks their first loss of the season on Thursday night at South Sound Stadium.
“I just told the guys, we’ve got (four) plays, we’ve got to keep them out,” Spears said. “We just ran our goal-line defense.”
Timberline pushed Deboreae McClain backward three yards on first down. On second down, a pack of defenders stuffed Braeden Potter after a 2-yard gain. Ryder Johnson threw incomplete under pressure on third down.
Peninsula coach Ross Filkins said he tried to set up a run-pass option for Johnson on fourth down, but that didn’t work either.
Johnson took the snap, rolled to his right and fired a shot into the end zone, but Tyrin Edmond raced across the field to break it up.
Timberline (7-2, 6-1 3A SSC) took two knees to run out the clock and clinch a share of the league’s inaugural title. Peninsula (8-1, 6-1) was stunned.
“We’re going to learn from it, and we’ll be that much better for it,” Filkins said to his team after the game.
Peninsula, which was playing for its first undefeated regular season since 1985, will host Bethel, Lakes or Stadium in the first round of the playoffs next week as the league’s No. 2 seed.
Timberline last won a league title in 2013, when it won in its final year playing in the 3A Narrows League. The Blazers will host Oak Harbor (7-2) in the first round as the No. 1 seed.
Timberline’s only outright loss this season is to Bonney Lake in Week 2. The Blazers lost one game in league play — a late forfeit to Yelm because of an eligibility violation, though the Blazers beat the Tornados handily on the field.
That seemed long forgotten by the end of Thursday’s game.
“Now matter how old you get, no matter how far you go, they can never take this away from you,” Spears said to his team. “You can say, in 2016, you were No. 1. They can’t take that away.”
Timberline held Peninsula to 135 total offensive yards — including just 33 in the first half.
“I think we came out on top in that battle,” Spears said. “It was close, it wasn’t one-sided by any stretch. They’re an outstanding team. … It was a battle of two wills, and we were lucky enough to come out on top.”
The Seahawks went three-and-out on their first four drives, and didn’t pick up a first down until the closing seconds of the first half, when Blake Cantu broke for a 13-yard run.
Cantu was contained to 60 yards. Kenny Easton, usually Peninsula’s top rusher, was held to six.
Peninsula’s only score came on a 35-yard field goal by Danny Jackson to open the second half. The Seahawks started just outside the red zone, on Timberline’s 24-yard line, after Evan Johnson returned the kickoff 65 yards.
But again, Timberline’s defense held, forcing Peninsula to settle for three points.
The Seahawks never got closer, and the Blazers never trailed.
Their only score was on their final possession of the first half. The Blazers drove to Peninsula’s 25, and Jacob Henning found Tariq Romain deep in the end zone for a touchdown.
“When I went back there, I looked down. I saw the ball coming, reached out and caught it,” Romain said.
Anthony Hathaway, Timberline’s workhorse running back, churned up yards in between, slowly eating away at the clock. He finished with 31 carries for 170 yards — his seventh game this season rushing in triple digits.
“They (were) tough up front, they were coming at us at all places,” Hathaway said. “You just fight for every yard.”
Timberline punted twice and turned the ball over on downs during their three possessions in the second half, but the Seahawks couldn’t capitalize.
The Seahawks punted on two straight possessions before their final drive. Cantu broke out for a 38-yard run, and Potter added another 34-yard burst two plays later. A personal foul call on Timberline set up Peninsula at the 3.
Then came the goal-line stand.
“I don’t think anybody thought we were going to get to this point,” Hathaway said. “Everybody thought we were going to be a fifth-place team. We came in first, and that’s all that matters.”
NO. 4 PENINSULA
T – Tariq Romain 25 pass from Jacob Henning (Madison Douglas kick)
P – Danny Jackson 35 field goal