By Joe Slye, Gem of the Sound Sports Reporter
Gem of the Sound Sports – Kennedy vs. Emerald Ridge Recap – 11/26/2022
The Kennedy Catholic Lancers won their State Tournament Playoff game 42-28 over the Emerald Ridge Jaguars last Saturday afternoon at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. The game started with both teams determined to establish the look of running the ball. The run did not generate a lot of yards but was complemented with short passes to give a balanced attack. Both teams had a similar game plan to establish the run and use short passes to control the ball. Once the defense had adjusted to stop the short stuff, the offense would launch the dagger long pass that would move the ball into scoring position.
Kennedy Catholic started with the opening kickoff on their 36-yard line and began their march. A series of short passes, runs, screens, draws, and then finally, on 4th down and 22 from the Emerald Ridge 38, a deep 37-yard throw from Devon Forehand to Maclane Watkins, and the ball was on the one-yard line. After an incomplete pass and two runs for no gain, Xe’Ree Alexander plunged across for a one-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was good on a run by Indy Jones. It took 14 plays to figure out that the Lancers would use the run and short passes to set up for a few long passes that would lead to a score. The Kennedy pooch kickoff left Emerald Ridge starting their opening drive on their 38-yard line. Now it was the Jaguars turn for the short passes, slant passes, draws, tosses, and a couple of 15-yard passes, and the ball was on the Lancer 5-yard line. Two dives into the line, and Emerald Ridge scores a touchdown. They kick the PAT, and the score is 8-7 in favor of Kennedy Catholic, with one minute remaining in the first quarter. Each team had one long first-quarter scoring drive combining short ball control plays with an occasional deep pass.
Watching the game, it looked like the stat sheet was going to be all about the run offense of both teams. However, the final stats were surprising as Kennedy Catholic had 417 yards, with 328 passing and 89 rushing. Emerald Ridge had similar stats of 425 total yards, with 388 passing and only 37 rushing. Kennedy Catholic converted on only 1 of 10 third-down plays but had three touchdowns off of 3 fourth-down conversions. Emerald Ridge converted on 9 of 13 third-down plays allowing them to be very effective in controlling the ball in the first half. The undoing for Emerald Ridge was giving up three interceptions and Kennedy Catholic having no turnovers in the game.
The second quarter opened with Kennedy Catholic turning the ball over on downs at the Emerald Ridge 41-yard line. After a series of runs and passes moved the ball to the 3-yard line, Emerald Ridge pushed it across for a score. A successful two-point conversion and the Jaguars were ahead 15-8 with nine minutes before halftime. Kennedy Catholic responded quickly on a drive after the kickoff return to their 40-yard line. After a few short passes and runs, Kennedy Catholic was at the Emerald Ridge 41-yard line. A pass from Forehand to Mason Hayes was caught at the 10-yard line, where Hayes shook off two defenders and ran into the end zone. A failed two-point conversion, and the Lancers are down only 15-14. The Jaguars start on their 35-yard line with the Lancer kickoff. After a series of successful runs and passes, the drive stalls out, and Emerald Ridge turns the ball over on downs at the Lancer 23-yard line with 3:46 to go in the second quarter. Kennedy Catholic takes over and moves the ball with a 14-yard pass, 4-yard run, 31-yard pass, 15-yard pass, 3-yard run, and a 2-yard run, and it is fourth down on the Jaguar 4-yard line. A Forehand pass to Watkins in the end zone is good for a touchdown. The two-point conversion is good, and the Lancers are up 22-15 with 49 seconds to go in the first half. Emerald Ridge returns the kickoff to their 47-yard line. After two nice pass plays for gains, the Jaguars have second and five at the Lancer 38 and are looking to use the clock to get a score before halftime. But, disaster strikes with an interception by Dante Saldino on the 25 that he returns to the Lancer 49. Now it is Kennedy Catholics turn to use the clock and see if they can get that extra score before halftime. The Lancers run Alexander for 11 yards, pass for 20 to Hayes, and then pass to Hayes again, this time in the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion is good, and Kennedy Catholic has just reeled off 16 unanswered points in less than 4 minutes and is sitting on a comfortable 30-15 halftime lead.
The second half opens with neither team having any offensive success. Emerald Ridge received the kickoff and returned it to their 38-yard line. After a quarterback sack, a false start penalty, and two penalties, it is fourth and 25 on their own 24-yard line and time to punt. Kennedy Catholic fields the ball on their 38-yard line. With Mason Hayes at quarterback, the Lancers go into their wing T run formation and manage to get 7 yards on two runs, earn a holding penalty, and complete a pass for 7-yards to end up fourth and 7…time to punt. The Lancers may try to slow things down with their run offense and see if they can eat some clock. However, that didn’t go so well in that last series. There is still a lot of time to go in this game.
Things started to heat up after each team finished these post-halftime warmup series. Emerald Ridge begins with the ball after the punt on their 24-yard line. They assemble a nice 7-play drive with a mix of short runs and passes, and on third and goal from the 8-yard line, quarterback Jake Schakel passes to Tony Harste for a touchdown. The extra point is missed, and Kennedy Catholic leads 30-21 with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter. The Jaguar kickoff is fielded on the Lancer 5 and returned to their 32-yard line. An eleven-play drive combining short runs and passes gets the Lancers third and nine on the Jaguar 23-yard line. Forehand launches a perfect pass to Isaac Syph in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion fails, and Kennedy Catholic leads 36-21 with 11:01 remaining in the game. Back and forth we go. Exchanging punches like boxers, the question is, will one of them fail to answer.
Emerald Ridge takes the kickoff at their 26-yard line looking for a quick answer score. On second and 10, Schakel hits receiver Kajon Babcock at the Lancer 40 in traffic. The defenders collide and fall down. The receiver is left standing where he sprints into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown reception. The PAT is good, and just like that, the Jaguars close the gap again at 36-28. Now it is the Lancers turn to answer. The ensuing kickoff is returned to their 42-yard line. They start a seven-play drive, where on fourth and goal from the 8-yard line, Forehand hits Watkins at the goal line with a perfect throw for a touchdown. The two-point conversion fails, and with 7:20 to go, the Lancers are back up by two scores, 42-28. Emerald Ridge is not yet ready to throw in the towel. They take the Lancer kickoff at their 23-yard line and begin a 14-play drive where on first and goal at the 9-yard line Schakel tosses a pass that Lancer Nate Barnes intercepts and returns to the Jaguar 18-yard line. Kennedy Catholic eats up some clock with four running plays that stall out on fourth and ten at the midfield, so they punt. Emerald Ridge is running out of time, but with 2:29 to go, they start the last-gasp drive from their 7-yard line. After some success, six plays later Saldino picks off interception #2 for the day, and the Lancers take a knee to end the game.
This was another excellent win for Kennedy Catholic and a well-scripted performance. The offense had a perfect combination of short runs and passes combined with the more trademark long-ball passing. Of the 328 passing yards for the day, 201 yards came on seven plays. The rest were shorter runs and passes that controlled tempo and the clock to present a balanced attack. Emerald Ridge could not sell out to cover just the pass. They had to cover the entire field. The defense was solid all day with a “bend” but “don’t break” attack. Key sacks and the three interceptions made a huge difference in stalling out the Jaguar chances. Both teams had a similar game plan, but Emerald Ridge could not outdo the Lancers with the game plan they were both running.
As the playoffs progress, we see the competition getting better every week. The Kennedy Catholic Lancers are riding a twelve-game winning streak and are now one of the final two teams in the 4A State Tournament. Their next opponent is the Lake Stevens Vikings, who play in the 4A Wesco League. They have an 11-2 overall and 4-0 conference records. The two losses were to Garfield (Seattle Metro 3A) 26-16 in their season opener on September 3, 2022, and to West Linn (Oregon 3 Rivers League 6A) 45-6, who is currently 12-1 and four games deep into the 6A Oregon State Tournament. Common opponents are Federal Way, who Lake Stevens beat 63-21 on September 16, and Kamiak, who Lake Stevens beat 56-10 on October 21. Kennedy beat both these teams with similar convincing win scores. This will be a competitive matchup of two similarly talented teams. Lake Stevens will favor the run, and Kennedy Catholic will favor the pass. However, in the playoffs, defense makes the difference, and both teams have shown solid defense all season.
The Lancers take on the Vikings on Saturday, December 3 at 5:00 PM at Mount Tahoma High School Stadium, 4634 S 74th ST, Tacoma, WA 98409. There are two games at the stadium on Saturday. The first game is the Class B playoff game with the Liberty Bell Lions from Winthrop, WA taking on the Neah Bay Red Devils from Neah Bay, WA starting at 12 noon. Buy a ticket that includes both games — support the high school teams!