By Martin Barrett
It was Senior Night at the last regular season Highline Pirate football game. It was also a match-up that would determine the League Championship and who would have a home-field advantage during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
With a 60 to 0 thumping of the 7-1 Renton Redhawks, who themselves were undefeated in League play, the Pirates were hoping for a stiff challenge in preparation for a playoff run. Instead, they experienced a repeat of most games. For all intents and purposes, the game was over by the end of the 1st quarter. Highline had a 16-0 lead and dominated every element of the game.
The scoring began with a 25-yard strike between Quarterback Ronan Rasmussen and Senior Wide Receiver Marquawn McCraney seven minutes into the game. Six minutes later, Senior Jamaine Matthews pounded home for a yard scoring run. Matthews ran like a madman all night. On multiple runs, he broke between 4 and 7 tackles, gaining up to 25 yards after first contact with a tackler and racking up 118 yards on ten carries. The Pirates had the Redhawks on their back heels, and with one minute left in Q1, the Pirates’ defense overwhelmed Renton in a defensive smackdown led by Seniors Linebackers Yannis Togi and Rashad Carriere. The Pirates scored a safety on a Redhawk high snap on a punt from the endzone. The first quarter ended 16-0.
But on this night, it was the McCraney show. Quiet and unassuming McCraney is a delightful young man with loads of talent. Rasmussen, who had his best throwing night of the season, connected with McCraney in tight spaces with impressive accuracy. Once in McCraney’s hands, even surrounded by defenders, it was like a man in the midst of boys. McCraney broke tackles, faked out defender after defender, and once free, blew past everyone with unmatched speed. McCraney’s strikes for 6 points came from 25, 14, 19,30, and 37 yards;125 yards in just scoring receptions. “It was a great way to finish the regular season of my senior year. We have all worked hard for this. It was a great night for the team!” said McCraney. It is clear a previous superstar has well-coached this young superstar (Head Coach Deontae Cooper) on humility and graciousness, a refreshing and hope-filled experience compared to the self-centered arrogance expressed by so many gifted young men in sports.
In what has also become a norm, Senior Running Back Nate Clay cashed in on four after-touchdown two-point conversions. Clay demonstrated his growing patience as a runner, waiting for holes to open and cutting through for yardage. This has been a great area of improvement that began midway through his Junior year.
What does not show in the stats is the sense of family that has enveloped Cooper’s team. It was Senior night; every senior was honored. Families came down on the field to walk through the honor tunnel of underclassmen players cheering on their upperclassmen teammates while listening to praise for each senior over the speaker system from the mouth of Coach Cooper. Once the parade had finished, they gathered in the center with parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and friends … all together. The expression of love for each other and for the families was palpable. This is an open expression of outstanding leadership. Cooper knows his X’s and O’s, but even more, he understands he is there to raise up boys into men of integrity. Every practice ends with the Pirate catechism; “Let your yes be yes, Let your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.” Clearly, it has worked! Being a Pirate football player is to learn how to win in all of life.
The Pirates now enter the playoffs with home-field advantage. Please look for updates on the next game.