TACOMA — It’s seldom that Touchet faces an 8-man football program with a deeper roster than its own.
But the Indians were the numbers underdog Friday afternoon in the Tacoma Dome when they tackled No. 1-ranked Neah Bay in the Class 1B state championship game at the Gridiron Classic.
Neah Bay suited up 39 players for Friday’s big game, including 14 seniors, many of whom were playing in the title game for a third consecutive year. Touchet, by comparison, made the trip over the mountains with a group that numbered 27, nine of whom played their final game in Indians pads.
Touchet’s roster depth for an 8-man program is impressive, Neah Bay’s exorbitant. Consider that Lummi, which lost to the Red Devils in the semifinals, had a roster of 20, with just four seniors, and Rosalia, which lost to Touchet in the semis, had 19 players, although nine were seniors.
As a matter of fact, Neah Bay’s roster is deeper than three of this year’s four Class 2B 11-man semifinalists, including defending state champion Lind-Ritzville-Sprague and Morton-White Pass, who met Saturday afternoon in the Tacoma Dome to decide this year’s Class 2B state champion.
The Red Devils’ three-year run to the Gridiron Classic has been clearly built around this year’s senior class. As sophomores, several were key contributors in a 36-28 victory over Almira-Coulee-Hartline, and as juniors they suffered a bitter 34-28 last-second loss to Liberty Christian.
Late Friday afternoon they celebrated a 36-18 victory over the Indians for the second state football championship in their school’s history.
“They were very disappointed,” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley recalled of his team’s loss in the 2012 title game. “They were back in the weight room the very next day and every day since. They re-dedicated themselves.
“Every boy but two in our school turned out for football,” McCaulley added. “The basketball coach hasn’t had much to do these last couple of weeks.”
The Red Devils’ recent success doesn’t compare to LaCrosse-Washtucna’s 8-man domination in the 2000s, when the Tigercats won four consecutive state titles and five in a span of seven years.
And even that impressive run can’t compare to Bellevue’s ironclad grip on the Class 3A ranks. The Wolverines defeated Eastside Catholic 52-20 in Friday night’s 3A final for their sixth consecutive state crown and extended their winning streak to 54 games in the process.
Bellevue, by the way, boasts a roster of 75, which would make most college coaches smile.
Neah Bay will fall back to something closer to normal next year. This year’s roster includes eight juniors, seven sophomores and six freshmen, with two eighth graders also suiting up.
Touchet is certain to miss its nine seniors in 2014. Next year’s senior class will be small with just four juniors on this year’s roster.
But with eight sophomores, six freshman and a promising eighth-grade class waiting in the wings, Indians coach Gary Dorman is already thinking about future trips to the Tacoma Dome and a happier outcome.
TACOMA — Neah Bay’s Red Devils didn’t exactly take their football and go home.
But they were darned stingy with it here Friday afternoon in the Tacoma Dome. Downright ball hogs.
With 190-pound senior Cody Cummins gouging Touchet’s defense inside and senior quarterback Josiah Greene terrorizing the Indians on the edges, Neah Bay dominated the final three quarters of the Class 1B 8-man state championship game as the Red Devils claimed their second state title in three seasons.
The final 36-18 score wasn’t quite as close as it might appear. Nor was it as lopsided.
The Indians, as a matter of fact, won the first quarter, putting two touchdowns on the scoreboard before the Red Devils managed a first down. Touchet wouldn’t score again, however, until the very final play of the game.
And in the interim, it was mostly Neah Bay as the Red Devils completed a perfect 12-0 season and handed Touchet a disappointing defeat in its first trip to the Gridiron Classic since 2002.
“Hopefully, this will be the start of several visits here,” Indians coach Gary Dorman said in assessing his team’s final 12-2 record, “If not, then I will cherish this one.”
Cummins and Greene combined for 328 of Neah Bay’s 409 rushing yards as the Red Devils used their punishing ground game to chew up yards and control the clock. At one point in the game, the Indians’ offense went from the 5:33 mark of the second quarter until 5:52 remained in the third without touching the football.
“I always said that the time was going to come and bite us and it finally did in this game,” Dorman said. “We just didn’t match up size-wise and they were able to pound it and pound it.
“Third-and-two is a whole lot easier to make than third-and-eight, and it seemed like they were able to make those two yards every time.”
Nine of Neah Bay’s 20 first downs were the result of third-down conversions. And the Red Devils were a perfect three-for-three on fourth down plays. The Indians, meanwhile, converted four-of-nine third downs and were successful only once in four tries on fourth down.
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort,” Dorman said. “But it’s pretty tough when you are outgunned by 80-to-100 pounds at several positions. But I wouldn’t trade my guys for the world. They played hard the whole way.”
The Indians struck gold early, taking the opening kickoff and driving 69 yards in five plays for the game’s first touchdown. Senior quarterback Elias Martinez hit two key passes on the drive, a 36-yard strike to senior Edgar Rincon and a 33-yard touchdown to junior Colter McKeown at 9:44 of the first quarter.
Neah Bay began its first possession deep in its own territory at the 18-yard line, and the Indians’ defense promptly came up with what would prove to be its only stop of the game.
The Red Devils punted, Touchet took over at midfield and seven plays later the Indians were back in the end zone.
Once again, Martinez delivered as he evaded a heavy rush and completed a 15-yard pass to senior Cesar Velasquez in the right corner of the end zone as the Indians took a 12-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter.
It was then that momentum shifted from one side of the field to the other.
A long kickoff return and two long runs from scrimmage allowed Neah Bay to cut the deficit in half in less than a minute. Greene scored the touchdown on a 15-yard run.
The Red Devils’ defense then forced a Touchet punt and Neah Bay drove 73 yards in six plays for the equalizer. Cummins’ 46-yard run got the drive started, he finished it with a 2-yard plunge and Josiah Greene passed to his cousin, senior Zeke Greene, for the 2-pointer and a 14-12 lead.
It was on Touchet’s next possession that you got the sense this was not going to be the Indians’ day.
The Indians drove the ball deep into Neah Bay territory only to come up short twice from the 2-yard line as the Red Devils’ defense held. It was a Touchet shortcoming that would be revisited in the second half.
“We have capitalized all year in situations like that,” Dorman said. “This team has finished off drives so well this year, but we couldn’t get it done today.
“One was a communication issue where the play that was called wasn’t the one that was run. On the other we just called the wrong play, and I’ll take the responsibility for that because we just couldn’t get it in the end zone. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
Neah Bay then marched from its own 2-yard line to the Indians 29, an 18-play drive that consumed the final 5:33 of the first half. The Red Devils received the second-half kick and put together a 12-play drive that ate up the first 6:08 of the third quarter, with Cummins scoring on a 3-yard run for a 20-12 Red Devils lead.
“We have always been able to get stops on defense and come up with big defensive stands,” Dorman said. “But the Neah Bay kids are athletic kids as well as big kids. And they executed well.”
The Red Devils added to their lead early in the fourth quarter on 265-pound fullback Tyler McCaulley’s 4-yard run.
On the Indians’ first possession of the final period, Martinez scrambled for 50 yards and a first down on the Neah Bay 3-yard line. But Martinez was sacked for a seven-yard loss on what appeared to be a broken play, and three incomplete passes later the scoring opportunity fizzled out.
Zeke Green scored Neah Bay’s final touchdown on an 11-yard end around before Touchet put together its final scoring drive of the season. Martinez hit senior Colton Goble on pass completions of 7, 42 and 2 yards on the final three plays of the season.
“We’ll take it,” Dorman said. “I guess if you can’t win the championship, getting a touchdown on the final play is the way to end the year.”
Neah Bay 36, Touchet 18
Neah Bay 6 8 6 16 — 36
Touchet 12 0 0 6 — 18
Tou — Col. McKeown 33 pass from Martinez (run failed).
Tou — Velasquez 15 pass from Martinez (run failed).
NB — J. Greene 15 run (run failed).
NB — Cummins 2 run (Z. Greene pass from J. Greene).
NB — Cummins 3 run (pass failed).
NB — McCaulley 5 run (Z. Greene run).
NB — Z. Greene 11 run (Reamer pass from J. Greene).
Tou — Goble 2 pass from Martinez (no attempt).
First downs 20 12
Rushes/yards 409 128
Passing yards 12 195
Passes (att-comp-int) 8-1-0 16-10-0
Punts 1-36 1-54
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 2-20 4-25
RUSHING — Neah Bay: Cummins 24-183, J. Greene 19-145, Svec 4-57, Z. Greene 1-11,McCaulley 2-9, Haupt 3-2; Touchet: Martinez 7-76, E. Rincon 8-21, Velasquez 5-16, McKeown 2-10, Butler 1-5.
PASSING — Neah Bay: J. Greene 1-8-0-12. Touchet: Martinez 10-15-0. 195 yards, 3 touchdowns; Col. McKeown 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Neah Bay: Reamer 1-12-0. Touchet: C. Rincon 4-60-0, Goble 3-51-1, E. Rincon 1-36-0, McKeown 1-33-1, Velasquez 1-15-1.