Gabe Gutierrez knows Timberline High School’s pistol offense features enough playmakers this season, the Blazers can score from anywhere.
That's not to say the senior quarterback doesn't mind a short field.
Timberline turned a pair of North Thurston miscues into short touchdowns and got a big game from Gutierrez to down the Rams, 34-21, in the 50th meeting between the two Lacey schools at South Sound Stadium on Friday.
Gutierrez threw a 5-yard touchdown pass and ran for scores of 3, 13 and 2 yards to help the Blazers usher in their return to the 4A classification with a victory.
Champions of the 3A Narrows League the last two seasons, Timberline returns to the 4A Narrows League this season for the first time since 1998.
Twice in the first half North Thurston coughed the ball up deep in their own territory – once on a muffed punt return and the other on a mishandled punt snap.
The end result placed the Blazers at the Rams 7 and 16, respectively.
"We will take it every time," Gutierrez said of the short field. "The easier the better. This was a first game. We made some mistakes. I had some overthrows and some underthrows, but I think we made the adjustments in the second half. Great way to kick off the season.”
Gutierrez was 10-for-24 passing for 186 yards with an interception. He also added 43 rushing yards on six carries.
"Field position is huge," North Thurston coach Rocky Patchin said. "We are playing a lot of young inexperienced kids and it showed at times tonight, but I was really pleased how they continued to battle."
It was the third consecutive victory for the Blazers in the series. The Rams still hold a 27-23 all-time record against Timberline.
Timberline led, 20-7, at the half, scoring twice in the final six minutes of the second quarter to take advantage into the locker room.
North Thurston's offense struggled to get out of the gate, going three-and-out on all three of its first-quarter possessions. The Rams had as many penalties – four – as total yards in the opening quarter.
North Thurston's biggest mistake in the opening 12 minutes, however, came when sophomore Devin Santos mishandled a punt return, leading to a first-and-goal at the North Thurston 7 for the Blazers.
Three plays later Gutierrez hit Jarryn Bush on a 5-yard scoring strike.
The Rams tied the game with 8 minutes to play in the second quarter on Zach Sibley's 7-yard touchdown run.
Timberline closed out the half in a flurry, getting a 55-yard TD run from Chris Barnes and the first of Gutierrez's three scores on the ground.
Leading 27-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Timberline sealed the contest by matching 98 yards in just five plays.
Jonathan Dowell got the lion's share of the work, hauling in passes of 36 and 37 yards and adding an 8-yard run before Gutierrez punched it in from 2 yards out.
"That deep in our own end, (Dowell's) the guy I'm looking for," Guterriez said. "We've played together since seventh grade. We just know each other so well. It really gives us confidence in those situations."
Dowell was Gutierrez's favorite target, pulling down six catches for 137 yards.
North Thurston also scored on Jake Harn's 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Morgan and Anthony Salazar's 2-yard plunge.
Both teams continue their non-league slate next week. Timberline hosts Tumwater, while North Thurston plays cross-town rival River Ridge.