Big-time players made big-time plays.
It’s an ultimate sports cliché, but it’s true. And nowhere was it more evident than on the turf of Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner, where the host Spartans defeated Graham-Kapowsin 34-27 in a Thursday night feature.
The South Puget Sound League 4A contenders were expected to entertain and they did. In keeping with the pregame buildup, the bleachers were packed on both sides and a TV camera crew scurried along the Sumner sideline. Aside from league standings, the game was a clash of state titans: Sumner went into the contest ranked No. 5 in the AP poll and Graham-Kapowsin was No. 3.
Thursday’s outcome will undoubtedly shuffle the deck when the latest poll is released.
But back to big-time plays.
After Sumner High fell behind 27-24 with just 2:22 showing on the game clock, the visiting Eagles made the mistake of kickoff in the direction of the Spartans’ Connor Wedington. The coveted senior – who has made a verbal commitment to the University of Washington football program – promptly took off on a highlight-reel, 88-yard return for the game-winning touchdown.
That wasn’t the last of the Spartans’ big plays, however.
Graham-Kapowsin’s highly-touted sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris still had the ball in his hands and time on the clock. But the Eagles’ hopes of a miraculous comeback were shattered when Sumner’s Tyson Rainwater intercepted a Morris throw and returned the ball to the 15-yard line. After milking the clock with three running plays, Sumner coach called upon senior kicker Nick Phillips, who cooly drilled a 28-yard field goal to account for the night’s final points.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Phillips had connected on a 27-yard field goal, adding valuable points.
Things hadn’t started especially swimmingly for the Spartans, who found themselves trailing 13-0 in the first quarter. The Eagles had scored first on a short burst by Brandon Becker, then on a 70-yard sprint by primary ballcarrier Micah Smith.
Needing some sort of spark, Rainwater proved to be just what the Spartans desperately needed. He stepped in front of a Morris toss, plucked the ball at midfield and sprinted 50 yards for six points.
Sumner quickly forced an Eagle punt and, with just a minute remaining in the half, Spartan quarterback Luke Ross lofted a pass to a waiting – and not defended – Tre Weed. The junior cradled the pass, turned upfield and polished off a 60-yard scoring play.
Phillips added his second extra-point kick of the half and Sumner headed into intermission with both the momentum and a 14-13 lead.
The Spartans added a bit of breathing room in the third period, again on a Ross-to-Weed aerial, this one covering 43 yards.
The exciting final period saw Graham-Kapowsin score a pair of TDs, the second giving the Eagles a 27-24 lead. But those were offset by Wedington’s electric kick return and the pair of Phillips field goals.
The Bonney Lake Panthers allowed the first points of Friday night’s game but nothing else.
Playing at Art Crate Stadium on the Bethel campus, the host Braves posted a first-quarter field goal to claim a 3-0 lead. But from that point on, it was all Bonney Lake.
The 35-3 victory pushed the Panthers’ record to 2-0 in Pierce County League 3A play and 3-1 overall.
The Panthers will be looking to keep their league slate clean this Friday when they host Stadium High. The 7 p.m. kickoff will be at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
Stadium will take the field with a 2-0 league record, 3-1 overall. The Tigers are coming off a 59-6 pasting of Mount Tahoma.
The T-Birds are a common opponent, as Bonney Lake defeated Mount Tahoma during an exciting, 19-18 game on Sept. 16.
Bonney Lake’s victory over Bethel came largely on the ground, as Marcus Hamilton scored on runs of 5, 10 and 15 yards and Jason Day scored on a short burst. The team’s lone aerial TD was delivered by Kaiden Hammond and caught by Braydon Tressler, covering 24 yards.