by Martin Barrett
The 5th-ranked Highline Pirates, currently ranked fifth in State in the 2A division, took home a 13 to 46 victory in a League match-up against Interlake on Friday night.
The Pirates came out flat. The lack of intensity was heightened by a well-conceived game plan by Saints Head Coach Dante Foster. Foster won the coin flip and chose to take the kickoff. The Saints then put together a single drive that took the entire first quarter and into the second. Running the play clock down before every play reduced the number of snaps to 16, 12 of them running plays. They converted on 3 third downs and 2 fourth downs to string together 5 first downs, scoring at 11:09 in the second quarter.
The Pirates clearly held the talent pool. But there was a lack of desire. Gaps were not filled. Pass coverage was sloppy. Tackles were missed. It looked like something other than a Deontae Cooper-coached team. Instead, they showed the letdown of a team that had “spent it all” in an emotional and full-throttle game last week against their chief rival, Kennedy Catholic.
After the Saints’ long scoring drive, they immediately put down an onside kick and recovered the ball on the Pirate 33. But Highline stiffened. Linebacker Rashad Carriere sacked the Saints for a 12-yard loss, ending the threat. Interlake was executing their strategy, running the clock and keeping the ball from the Pirates’ speedy offense. The Pirates did not touch the ball on offense until 9:06 in the second quarter.
Once in the Pirates’ hands, Offensive Coordinator Anthony Berg made quick work to even the score. It took less than a minute, and Highline was on the board. Running-back Jamaine Matthews ran for 15, followed by a beautiful run after catch by Marquawn McCraney of 42 yards, then back to Matthews with a 3-yard plunge for the touchdown, and the Pirates were on the board! Naphtali Clay scored the 2-point conversion, and Highline had a 7 -8 point lead. They never looked back.
In Pirate series two, Matthews broke free for a 31-yard run on the first play to score. Clay ran the ball in for the 2-point play, and it was 7 -16 at 5:42 in the second quarter. The Saints put together one more solid drive and scored with 12 seconds left in the half to head into the locker room only behind 13 -16.
In the second half, it was all Pirates, with Adam Estrada scoring two touchdowns and JT Baker and Clay all finding the end zone. Clay had several very nifty runs, including one of 54 yards and another of 57. As the game progressed, leadership moved to the forefront, especially the gritty running and intensity of Clay.
On defense, Rashad Carriere gained momentum throughout the night with 4 sacks. In the first half, he seemed to be the one defensive player making plays for the Pirates. In the second half, he was joined by Estrada, who intercepted a Saint pass toward the end of the 3rd quarter, and Jordan Heng, who had a sack on three consecutive plays.
Still, this felt like something other than a win for the Pirates. They were clearly the more athletic team on the field. They did not come close to playing to the level they are capable of delivering. Their execution was not crisp, and their energy was low. They beat a better Saint team last year by 50 points. (This was a great wake-up call!) The quality of coaching talent Head Coach Deontae Cooper has surrounded himself with, nights like this past Friday will become great learning lessons for the Pirate team. They will be better.
The next game is against Evergreen on Friday, September 22, 7 p.m. at Highline Stadium.
And now, as always, “Let your yes be yes. Let your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.” The Pirate team’s day-ending chant.