Connor Clark touched the football four times Saturday night.
He scored three touchdowns.
He wasn’t alone in getting to the end zone, either, and second-ranked Tumwater High School romped to a 55-0 Class 2A district football playoff victory over Washougal at Tumwater District Stadium.
A few hours before the game, the T-Birds’ cheerleaders posted a banner reading, “We got 99 problems, but Washougal ain’t one.”
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On the game’s first play, Clark set about proving the poster prophetic, taking the opening kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown. The first of six Nathan Seaman PATs made it 7-0 and the rout was on, 15 seconds into the game.
“I saw some great blocks. A seam opened up and I followed my teammates,” said Clark, who later scored rushing touchdowns of 32 and 34 yards. “It’s been that way all year. Our line does a great job.”
Nine Tumwater running backs combined for 371 yards rushing in a game shortened by the mercy rule’s running clock throughout a brief second half.
Clark’s first score started a streak of seven consecutive scoring drives by the T-Birds that didn’t end until a backup offensive unit turned the ball over on downs during the third quarter.
“Our coaches and players do a great job of preparing to get better from Monday through Thursday,” Tumwater coach Bill Beattie said. “When you’re prepared, good things happen on Friday nights … and Saturdays.”
Tumwater forced punts on Washougal’s first two possessions and marched in for a 19-yard scoring run by Zane Murphy and a 45-yard dash up the left sideline by Jacob Holbrook, who led the T-Birds with 105 yards on just five carries.
As the first quarter wound down, the Panthers put together their most concerted drive of the night, mixing passes and runs to move to the Tumwater 28-yard line on 12 plays, but an incomplete pass on fourth down by quarterback Ryan Stevens ended the threat.
It took the T-Birds only seven plays to counter with Clark’s second touchdown.
After Washougal’s next punt was blocked by Jacob Pati, Tumwater quarterback Elias Polito completed his third and final pass in as many attempts to tight end Thomas Drayton, setting up a first-and-goal at the Panthers 7.
A penalty set the T-Birds back five yards, but it didn’t matter as Holbrook ran the ball in for his second touchdown to make it 35-0.
When Nathan Tofell, who gained 51 yards rushing for Washougal on the night, fumbled to start the next series, Dylan Paine finished a quick three-play series with a 12-yard touchdown run.
Clark scored his final touchdown just before halftime, and all that remained was a 35-yard scoring run by sophomore Hunter Baker during the fourth quarter.
After Baker’s touchdown, the T-Birds showed their depth as backup kicker Reid Little, also a sophomore, replaced Seaman and boomed the final PAT through the uprights.
Tumwater (8-2) earns another home game with the victory and will host typically powerful Lynden (5-5) in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs next week at Tumwater District Stadium.
“Lynden is Lynden,” Beattie said. “We’ll need to be ready.”
Black Hills 14, at Columbia River 10: For the fifth time this season, the Wolves won a thriller in the final seconds, squeaking by the Chieftains at Kiggins Bowl in Vancouver.
This time, a last-second win earned Black Hills a return trip to the 2A state playoffs.
Kade Weitzel scampered for the end zone for a 12-yard score to give the Wolves the final advantage with 28 seconds to play.
Jordan Claridge corralled a loose ball for an interception on the ensuing drive to sew up the win.
Columbia River held on to a 10-0 lead until midway through the fourth quarter, when Taylor Simmons recorded a 1-yard score, set up by Weitzel’s second interception of the game.
Weitzel’s game-winning score came five minutes later.
This is the eighth time in program history the Wolves (6-4) have advanced to the state playoffs, but they have yet to advance past the first round.
Black Hills travels to Yakima to play Selah (8-0) next week in the first round.
NO. 2 TUMWATER
T – Connor Clark 94 kickoff return (Nathan Seaman kick)
T – Zane Murphy 19 run (Seaman kick)
T – Jacob Holbrook 45 run (Seaman kick)
T – Clark 32 run (Seaman kick)
T – Holbrook 12 run (Seaman kick)
T – Dylan Paine 12 run (Seaman kick)
T – Clark 34 run (kick blocked)
T – Hunter Baker 35 run (Reid Little kick)
CR – Julian Garcia 2 run (Tristan Hoyer kick)
CR – Hoyer 35 field goal
BH – Taylor Simmons 1 run (Davide Levi kick)
BH – Kade Weitzel 12 run (Levi kick)