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Highline Pirates Win District Playoff Game To Advance to the State Tournament

Sosa on the way to another touchdown.

At the start of the season, I wrote an article asking if the Pirates could make it to the state champions.

Three months later and the Pirates won their district playoff game to move into the State Tournament with a 28-14 victory over the Orting Cardinals in last night’s stormy game.

Though the game was messy, the rain and wind didn’t affect the Pirate’s speed and running game; they battled hard to secure their near-perfect record of 9-1.

The first half was rough, ending with a 14-0 Pirate lead. Orting was able to develop one drive late in the first half but could not finish. Highline struggled with consistency, and 45 yards of penalties killed drives. In the midst of gusting wind and moisture, the Pirates stayed with the ground game, rotating backs and hammering the middle.

The first half belonged to Rico Sosa, who ran up 68 yards and scored two touchdowns. Sosa was in sync with his offensive line and slashed through the creases created by solid blocking. When asked about scoring two touchdowns in the first half, Soza was all smiles, “It felt great, but the win for the team felt even better.” 

Rico Sosa Highline Pirates Scores Two Touchdowns In Playoff game
Sosa on the way to another touchdown.

Jordan Heng seemed to move the Orting defensive center where he wanted. Tackles Alijah Garza, Joseph Tiumalu, and Guards Gabriel Luna-Tautua, and Jacob Brown consistently pushed defenders downfield. Running back Jamaine Williams racked up 51 yards in the first half and showed tremendous power.

The Orting Cardinals had success on the run game picking up five first downs in the first half. But their lack of pass threat allowed the Pirates to focus on stopping the rush and could not sustain drives. The Pirate defense led by Yannis Togi made some textbook tackles, and the Pirate trademark swarm tackling showed their speed to the ball.

The second half was a different game. The Pirates began the scoring with a 4-yard run by Williams at the 7:21 mark in the 3rd quarter. But Orting responded with a run-and-shot offense that opened up the middle. Behind the running of Whyatt Phelan and Chase Brouhard. Their power running created opportunities for Quarterback Mason MaCall to rip off some big chunks of yardage up the middle. In their first drive of the second half, the Cardinals started from their 27-yard line. They piled up five first downs in the drive and punched in their first score with a 15-yard scramble by McCall at 2:23 in the 3rd to bring the score to 21-7. The Cardinals still had some life, but the Pirates shut out all hope less than two minutes later with another Williams touchdown, this time an 8-yard slash.

Still, the Cardinals pressed and put the final score on the board with another quarterback run by McCall from the 5-yard line.

Nat Clay Makes the Cut.

Nat Clay also joined the Pirate scoring action with a nifty 18-yard run with less than 2 minutes in the game, but it was called back on a holding penalty. Penalties are the bain of the Pirates. Racking up 65 penalty yards in the second half, the Pirates saw several long plays brought back. Once again, the superior speed and sense that Highline can score at will make what would be deadly for most other teams seem manageable by the Pirates. However, as the State Tournament begins next Friday with a yet-to-be-named opponent, the quality of oppositional defense will increase dramatically, and penalties may be more costly.

“They ran a fast tempo, and we had to adjust to it. They played a good game, every single play of the game, but we just played harder and wanted it more,” an energetic Luna-Tautua said after the game.

We have to get better. We can improve. I can get better. I made a couple of mistakes…I know I can do better,” a subdued Marquawn McCraney shared.

Jacob Brown, aka Big Red, surmised, “It was not what we expected. There were surprises. There will always be surprises. But it’s how you overcome those — that’s how you win for real.”

Quarterback Ronan Rasmussen saw beyond the victory: “It was a good win, but we want more; we see the bigger picture. We want the state championship. We could have been better. Rico and Jamaine were on fire. Coaches and the offense were also great.”

“I am proud of the kids. There are no guarantees in the playoffs. In the circumstances of the game with the wind and the weather, I am proud of them. I think we all know that we could have been better, but that is the beautiful thing about going back to work tomorrow. We will fix the errors and the things we did not do well and prepare for the final 16. We are 9-1; you don’t trip into 9-1 without doing a lot of things well. We have a good staff and good players. We are excited to get back to work,” a contemplative Head Coach Deontae Cooper reflected.

Under Coach Deontae’s leadership, the Pirates have worked tirelessly to build their ship from the ground up. Their efforts have paid off, as they are now preparing to set sail to the State Tournament and redeem their reputation. Their opponent and venue will be announced Sunday.

We can all benefit from the Pirates team chant: “Let your yes be yes, your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.”

We’re cheering you on Pirates!

At the time of publishing, the statistics were not available.

Photos By: Marco Orozco, edited by Natasha Tanev

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