The White River Hornets have blazed into the state’s Elite Eight and will be looking for a berth in the state quarterfinals when they line up Saturday afternoon against powerful Tumwater.
The Hornets dispatched fellow South Puget Sound League foe Orting High by a 27-14 score Friday night in a game that marked the initial round of the 16-team Class 2A state playoffs. A week earlier, White River had run past North Mason in a West Central District contest.
The Hornets and Tumwater will kick things off at 4 p.m. Saturday on the neutral – and very familiar – turf of Orting High's stadium.
Tumwater has built a storied program under longtime coach Sid Otten and this year’s squad has only built upon his legacy. The Thunderbirds have rolled to an 11-0 record, won the Evergreen League title and, in the latest Associated Press poll, are ranked No. 1 in the state.
Tumwater opened state play last week with a 52-22 victory over Sehome.
While the Thunderbirds were pounding a Sehome crew that finished with a losing record, the Hornets scored early and held on late to defeat the Cardinals in Orting.
Playing in cold, wet conditions, White River quickly jumped all over the Cards with a pair of first-quarter touchdowns. Workhorse Keenan Fagan put the Hornets on the scoreboard with a short touchdown run and Dustin France added a second TD when he hauled in a pass from Sean Hayes, a play that covered 44 yards.
The second quarter belonged to Hornet kicker Alex Morris, who drilled field goals from 37 and 33 yards, allowing White River to enter the locker room at halftime with a 20-0 lead.
Orting got untracked in the second half, scoring twice to cut the Hornets’ margin to 20-14. That was all the Cardinals could muster, however, and Fagan’s 27-yard scoring jaunt in the fourth quarter polished off the night’s scoring.
Fagan put together a highlight-reel performance, rushing 22 times for 231 yards, a whopping 10.5 yards per carry. He also caught four passes for 95 yards.
Hayes wasn’t kept busy throwing the football, but was highly efficient. He completed five of seven passes for 139 yards, including the long scoring strike to France.