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Kennedy Catholic Advances to State Tournament Semi-Finals After Defense Shuts Down Skyline

Mason M. showing his speed in open field.
Mason M. showing his speed in open field.

By Joe Slye, Gem of the Sound Sports Reporter, Photo credit: Mike Tedesco, Reaction Photography

Kennedy vs. Skyline Recap – 11/18/2022

The Kennedy Catholic Lancers won their State Tournament Playoff game 38-10 over the visiting Skyline Spartans last Friday night at Highline Memorial Stadium. With 3 interceptions in the first quarter, the Lancer air raid offense was looking for some help. Turns out the Lancer defense was waiting in the wings to get things back on course. Three different quarterbacks tried their hand at changing the look or giving a change of pace to the Lancer offense. It was a night of inconsistent running and passing for the offense. However, with the defense forcing 2 fumbles, 2 interceptions, and multiple stops on 3rd and 4th downs, the Kennedy Catholic team put the parts and pieces together to secure a very satisfying victory.

Kennedy Catholic received the opening kickoff with a return to the 38-yard line. Senior quarterback Payton Faker tried to get things going on the first series of plays with a run for no gain to XeRee’ Alexander, a pass to Nate Barnes for a 12-yard gain out to the 50, a short gain on a run by Zach Schell and then a deep pass that hung in the air for too long that was picked off by Skyline defensive back Nahmier Robinson at the 20 and returned to the 35-yard line. The Kennedy Catholic quick-start offense had stalled out. Now with the ball, Skyline assembled a nice series of plays advancing to the Kennedy 30-yard line. However, the Lancer defense was getting warmed up and knocked down a pass for an incompletion, held a run for no gain, and then Mason Hayes stepped in front of a 4th and 10 passes and picked it off at the 15-yard line. The Kennedy Catholic offense is back in action, only to disappoint again. With Devon Forehand now at quarterback, the Lancer series consisted of 2-yard pass completion, 2 incompletions, and a short punt to their own 43-yard line. This set Skyline up for a short series that stalled on the Kennedy Catholic 12-yard line, and on 4th and 5, the Spartans kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 5:03 to go in the first quarter. 

Derek C. is sacking Qb for a fumble, and Ish T. going for a recovery.

Kennedy Catholic returned the kickoff to their 31-yard line. Forehand returned at quarterback on this drive that also did not go well. In six plays, the Lancers had one completion for 9 yards, a run for 1 yard, a procedure penalty, two incompletions, and an interception again by the Spartans Robinson on the Lancer 26-yard line. Skyline had a great field position, and on the first play, quarterback Mason Pirello hit Tj Crandall in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point kick was successful, and Skyline was looking good with a 10-0 lead with 3:40 to go in the first quarter. Kennedy Catholic had not trailed by this much in a game since the season-opening loss to Eastside Catholic back in September. The kickoff was returned to the Kennedy Catholic 20. The Lancers went after it again and again with limited success. After 4 run plays for 13 yards, two passes for 18 yards, and 3 penalties for minus 25 yards, on 3rd and 10 Forehand tossed another interception. Skyline now had the ball on their 36-yard line and a chance to add to their lead. A 6-yard pass and a botched run play ended the first quarter with the Spartans leading 10-0. A miserable first quarter for the Lancer offense, but still a lot of time to go and within striking distance if the offense can get untracked. 

Skyline opens the second quarter with the ball 3rd and 10 on their own 42-yard line. The first play is a pass that is picked off by Lancer Mason Hayes on the 45-yard line and returned 55 yards for a touchdown. Add a two-point conversion, and the Lancers have closed the gap to 10-8…but still wondering if the offense can hold onto the ball and sustain a possession long enough to score. According to the script for this game, a short kickoff and Skyline returns the ball to their own 46-yard line. The Kennedy Catholic defense bends a little bit by giving up a first down but then clamps down on two screen passes tackled for loss and forces an incomplete pass. Skyline punts and its Lancer ball on their own 20-yard line. An 80-yard drive begins to unfold, featuring a 52-yard catch and run by Hayes topped off with a 1st and 4 at the goal line that Alexander punches across for a touchdown. With 6:58 to go in the second quarter, Kennedy Catholic is leading 16-10 and never looks back. Skyline takes the ensuing kickoff and attempts 3 passes for a loss of 3, an incompletion, and a grounding call to then punt on 4th down out of bounds at the Kennedy Catholic 49-yard line. Just 7 plays later, from the 25-yard line, Alexander runs up the middle and breaks 3 tackles on his way to another touchdown. The 2-point conversion fails, and the Lancers lead 22-10 with 2:50 to go in the second quarter. Another short kickoff and Skyline’s return to their 47-yard line put the Kennedy Catholic defense back in business. Three Skyline plays for no gain, a 4th down punt that is returned to the Skyline 41, and now the Lancer offense has 64 seconds until halftime. A first down and then a couple of throws to the end zone results in a Skyline interception at the 2-yard line as the first half ends with Kennedy Catholic on a run of 22 unanswered points and in control 22-10.

The second-half Kennedy Catholic kickoff is another short kick that, on a trick play, is lateraled back to Tj Crandall, who finds a seam and returns it to the 50-yard line. However, the Lancer defense again makes tackles for loss, forces a holding penalty, and causes a fumble that they recover on the Skyline 37-yard line. The Lancer offense takes over with some success, but a holding penalty and 2 incomplete passes leave them with a 4th and 19 that turns into a sack and a turnover on downs. Skyline gets the ball back on their 40-yard line. They punt after just one first down, 2 incompletions, and a sack. The third quarter is back and forth, but the defenses are winning the day on these drives. Returning the punt to their 37-yard line, the Lancer offense shows some life and assembles a 7-play drive with Alexander running up the middle for 12 yards and a touchdown. The two-point conversion run by Hayes is good, and Kennedy Catholic has stretched the lead to 30-10 with 3:35 to go in quarter three. The end of the third quarter and early fourth quarter has Skyline with some success passing the ball and slipping in some trick plays, but their drives stall, and a fumble with 9:51 to go gives Kennedy Catholic the ball on the 42-yard line. The Lancer offense with Hayes at quarterback goes into the old school Wing T run mode and pounds out a drive and a 9-yard touchdown run by Alexander (his 4th TD of the night) with 2:21 to go in the game. A Lancer interception of a Skyline desperation pass and taking a knee on the last two plays ends the game.

A great win for Kennedy Catholic but not their best performance. However, as the playoffs progress, the competition is better, and any win is a good win. Head Coach Sheldon Cross posted online, “the way our guys competed in the face of adversity was awesome!” Very well said, as things often did not go the Lancer way, but they stepped up and made plays to get it back on track.

Kennedy Defense is ready to go.

Another untypical Kennedy Catholic game…this one had the Lancers with 322 total yards, 156 passing, and 166 rushings. The air raid gives way to the run at playoff time! Skyline was held to 175 total yards, with 157 passing and only 18 rushing after the sacks and tackles for loss that the Lancer defense administered throughout the game. Skyline was only 3 for 11 on third down, while the Lancers were 6 for 14. The Skyline offense was held in check all night except for the early scoring after multiple Lancer turnovers. The Kennedy Catholic defense deserves the “player of the game” award.

kennedy-catholic-state-tournament-2022-burien-news.com-Xe'ree A-Skline-Highschool-Lancers
Xe’ree A. breaking through Skyline’s Defense.

Now riding an eleven-game winning streak as one of the four remaining teams in the 4A State Tournament, the Kennedy Catholic Lancers take on the Emerald Ridge Jaguars out of South Hill/Puyallup on Saturday, November 26 at 1:00 PM at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

Emerald Ridge plays in the 4A South Puget Sound League, where they compiled a 10-2 overall record and a 7-2 conference record. The two losses were to Puyallup 29-28 in their season opener on September 2, 2022, on a last-minute Puyallup score and to Graham-Kapowsin 35-25, who is currently 10-2 and in the semi-finals of the 4A State Tournament.

Emerald Ridge led 18-14 at halftime in this game…and could be undefeated except for these two really close losses. Last week Emerald Ridge traveled to Pasco to take on the Chiawawa Riverhawks in their playoff game. Emerald Ridge passed for 382 yards and only rushed for 14 yards to beat Chiawawa 40-37 on a last-minute touchdown. Emerald Ridge likes to pass the ball but has won several games with a very balanced attack. The Emerald Ridge defense held Chiawawa to just 212 yards of offense but gave up 37 points. Chiawawa scored twice on special team plays, a touchdown on the opening kickoff, and a blocked punt returned for a score. Giving up these two scores and a rushing touchdown, Emerald Ridge fell behind 21-0 to start the game. Kennedy Catholic started slowly in their game, down 10-0, with turnovers and inconsistent play against Skyline. Both teams made great comebacks to get a win…the team fastest out of the gate may not have the edge in this weekend’s matchup. As Seahawk’s coach, Pete Carroll, often says, “it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.”

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