Steilacoom’s Sentinels, unimpressed with River Ridge’s status as 2A South Puget Sound League champion, came to play a football game Thursday night.
The Sentinels, with playoff ambitions of their own, made life miserable for the home-team Hawks, but two touchdowns spanning the third and fourth quarters lifted River Ridge out of a tie game as the SPSL 2A unbeaten Hawks hung on for a 41-20 victory at Lacey’s South Sound Stadium.
River Ridge finished off the first 9-0 regular season in the school’s history, getting a clinching 24-yard touchdown pass from Kobe Key to Jonta’h Wesley on fourth-and-4 with two minutes to play for a 34-20 lead.
River Ridge still couldn’t breathe easily, as the Sentinels immediately drove deep into Hawks territory — only to have Ryan Blash put an exclamation point on the champion Hawks’ season with an interception and 85-yard touchdown return.
Tre’Vonne Dorfner rushed 36 times for 194 for the Hawks, Joshua Braverman had 73 yards and two touchdowns, and Key finished 6 for 10 for 89 yards and two scores.
Steilacoom (4-3 SPSL, 4-5 overall) will have to sweat out the result of Friday’s Washington-Franklin Pierce game to learn its playoff fate. If Pierce wins, the Sentinels are in. If Washington wins, the three teams would play Sunday in a mini-playoff with Kansas tiebreaker rules for two of the league’s final three playoff berths.
Robert Armstrong’s interception of Sentinels quarterback Anthony Leiato stalled a promising Steilacoom drive early in the third quarter. That came moments after the Sentinels had tied the game at 13-13 on a 37-yard touchdown run by Anthony Garcia — a play made possible by an interception of Key by La’Jon Enis Carter.
River Ridge reclaimed the lead on a 3-yard run by Joshua Braverman, one play after he rambled 70 yards on the first snap after Armstrong’s interception.
River Ridge would not trail again.
Earlier, River Ridge made plain its game plan on the first series of the game: give it to Dorfner early and often. The junior carried seven times for 55 yards on a nine-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 20-yard pass-and-run touchdown from Key to Braverman.
Hawks linebacker Zachary Carter put a lick on a Sentinels receiver after a completed pass, popping the ball loose and recovering it himself at the Steilacoom 35. After a major penalty moved the ball to the Sentinels 11 on the last play of the first quarter, junior Thomas Engel ran it in from the 9 as the Hawks went up 13-0.
Steilacoom got on the board midway through the second quarter on a short drive helped along by a facemask penalty on the Hawks. Sentinels workhorse Ahmad Jumper, a 5-foot-6 junior, cashed in on a 1-yard run for the score as Steilacoom got within 13-6.
River Ridge dodged a bullet on the last play of the first half. Leiato, operating from the Hawks 40, lofted a pass toward the goal line that was caught by junior Marques Hampton at the 1-yard line just before he stepped out of bounds with zeroes on the clock.
River Ridge will play in the playoffs next weekend at home against the winner of a Tuesday game between Friday’s Renton-Lindbergh winner and Sequim.