Pirates End Season with 42-13 in Quarter Finals to Lynden Lions The Number One Seed.
It is always hard to finish a season short of the goal; it eats at the soul. It takes outstanding leadership to gather the team, let them grieve, and know when it is time to move on to the next season. Fortunately, the Highline Pirates have just such a leader in Head Coach Deontae Cooper.
Friday night, the #1 seeded Lynden Lions took home a decisive win to advance to the semifinals in the 2A State Football Tournament. Led by Head Coach Blake VanDalen, the Lions were dominant for most of the game after the Pirates game-opening drive. In that drive, Senior Rico Soza, who gained 149 yards in rushing for the game, ran for a total of 68 yards on four carries, slashing and gobbling up large chunks of yardage, including a 46-yard breakout. It appeared that the Pirate speed would have the advantage over the size of the Lions defense, but their defense stiffened, and the Pirate’s turned the ball over on downs at the Lions 5-yard line.
The rest of the first quarter was back-and-forth, with the Lions moving the ball up the middle but not finding the end zone. It looked as though this contest had the potential to develop into a game of field position. But early in the second quarter, a Pirate drive was stopped by a fumble. The Lions recovered the ball on their 43-yard line. Nine plays later, using only the run, the Lions punched the ball in for the game’s first score at 7:25 in the second quarter. 7-0 Lions.
The Pirates next drive began on the 20 but ended with a 4th down punt after gaining only 5 yards. The Lions took the ball and began their drive on their own 36-yard line. Within a couple of plays, it was clear they had made their adjustments and knew where and how to pound the ball down the field. Utilizing nine running plays, using backs Campbell Nolte and Lane Herring, the Lions scored at the 2:09 mark of the 2 second quarter for their second touchdown; the score was now Lions 14-0.
The Pirates were not about to give up. Taking the ball on the 50-yard line after a failed Lion on sidekick attempt, the Pirates ran two successful run plays, setting up a long Ronan Rasmussen pass down the sideline to a streaking Pirate receiver. It was a well-thrown ball.
However, the Lion defensive back tangled up with the Pirate receiver, and both defender and receiver went down to the ground, clearing the path for another Lion defensive back to intercept the ball and run it back for a touchdown. To everyone’s amazement, the referee called it offensive interference, and the touchdown stood. With 1:10 left in the half, the score was a substantial 21-0 Lions lead rather than a close 14-7 struggle.
The Lions had settled into straight-up power football, racking up 12 first downs in the first half without throwing a completed pass. Lion backs regularly picked up 3 to 4 yards after initial contact with the tackler. Coach VanDalen had established their advantage, and in the second half, he just kept it coming. The Lions racked up a total of 20 first downs in the game.
True to their character Highline never gave up. In the 4th quarter, the Pirates put together a 12-play drive capped by a 2-yard plunge by Marquawn McCraney with 6:04 on the clock. The Lions responded with another score. But McCraney set up the Pirates for their second scoring drive with a 63-yard kick-off return. After a pass reception by Senior Charles Brown for 15 yards, Senior La’Marquis Williams pounded over multiple defenders to score on a 17-yard touchdown run. The final score was 42-13 Lions.
Postgame, Head Coach Cooper messaged online: “Where do I start? Although tonight didn’t go in our favor, I’m still so proud of my kids. The loss hurts but what hurts the most — is today is the last day I get to share/create memories with my seniors. I’m so thankful to all the kids, coaches, parents, and administrators involved in the Highline Pirates football program. No success ever rides on one man’s shoulders. It takes a village to do the things that were done this year. I’m grateful to have the trust of all those involved with the Highland pirates.”
To put the season in perspective. The Pirates went 10-2 overall this season. They won the 2A Kingco district and dominated Orting for the League Championship. They beat an excellent Washougal team in the first round and became the first Highline Pirate Football team to enter the State Tournament’s semifinals. They had eight games scoring 50+ points, with six shutouts on defense. The Pirates had 12 players named to the All Kingco First Team and one to the Second Team. Highline will lose 5 Senior starters and only 8 Seniors total off the squad.
But above all, Highline Pirate Football has a truly outstanding coaching staff. The Pirates growth in confidence and skills — both on and off the field is a testament to the quality and depth of coaching.
But what stands out most is the character and quality of the men on the coaching staff and how they have poured themselves into developing, shaping, and transforming the young men under their leadership.
Next year the returning players might be sporting a state championship ring in December — but of greater significance is that they will be men of excellence who contribute greatly to our community and wherever their paths take them.
Thank you, Pirates, for being a shining light in our city — demonstrating that hard work and perseverance pay off — you truly contribute to making our city the gem of the sound.
For the last time this season, we end with the Pirate chant: “Let your yes be yes, your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.”
Well done Pirates.
At the time of publishing, the statistics were not available.
Photos By: Marco Orozco, edited by Natasha Tanev
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