By Martin Barrett
The game started out rough. With the number 3 ranking and an 11 – 0 record, the larger Enumclaw Hornets took the opening kickoff and put together a 7-play drive before punting for the first time in several games. The number 6 ranked Highline Pirates started their opening drive at their own 39 and were forced to punt after three plays. Momentum, Hornets!
Beginning on their own 32, the Hornets put together a 10-play drive mixing up eight runs using five different runners and two receivers, finishing with a one-yard quarterback sneak by Gunnar Trachte. Hornets lead 7-0 with 2:39 left in the 1st quarter. It was a dominating offensive performance as the Hornets completely controlled the line of scrimmage, moving the Pirate defensive line backwards several yards on each play.
But the Pirates came back quickly. Starting on their own 37-yard line, the Pirates ran a no-gain run play. Then quarterback Ronan Rasmussen hit Adam Estrada in stride at the Hornet 40, and Estrada’s speed left the defenders in the dust. The point-after-touchdown snap was high and wide, forcing holder Marquawn McCraney to take the ball and try to scramble to the end zone unsuccessfully. At 1:44 in the first quarter it was Pirates 6, Hornets 7.
It looked as though it was going to be a game of the Hornets grinding out plays and consuming time and the Pirates moving with quick strike-scoring speed.
But in the second quarter, the Hornets picked up their focus. Taking the ball on the 50 after the Pirate kickoff, they drove the field in just 2 minutes on 6 plays to score on a 2-yard fullback plunge. At 11:41 in Q2, it was 14-6 Hornets.
The Pirates seemed to understand that they needed to respond quickly. The Hornets are steady; they are not a team you want to fall far behind. With the run shut down, the Pirates needed to go to their strength, the air game. Starting on their own 20, they sputtered; unfortunately, the Hornets were ready, and in what looked like a confused pattern, Rasmussen and his intended receiver were not in sync, and the pass went straight to a Hornet just three plays into the drive. The Hornets had possession of the ball once more, this time starting in the Pirate 33-yard line. Six plays later, Colton Hayes punched in from the 3, and at 7:56 left in the fourth quarter, Enumclaw had a solid 21-6 lead and all the momentum.
The Pirates, however, refused to fold, remembering the comeback against Kennedy Catholic in the season’s second game. Beginning on their 19, the Pirates put together their best drive of the night. They moved the ball down the field by mixing up an anemic run with big pass receptions. With pass plays of 27 and 21 in a blend of 15 plays, Coach Deontae Cooper brought points to the board and life back in the team. With 1:23 seconds left in the half, Marquawn McCraney lined up on the wildcat formation and made his way around the defensive line to score 6: score, Hornets 21, Pirates 12.
On this night, the Pirates did not score a Point After Touchdown. With the high snap on the first PAT, the Pirates chose to go for the two-point conversion every time with no success.
The Pirates took the second-half kickoff on their own 36. Four plays later, they punted. Starting from their own 41, the Hornets struck fast and showed some Enumclaw speed. At 160 pounds, Tristan Donovan swept around the end and found a seam. Once in the open, Pirate fans witnessed a rare sight: a runner they could not catch. One play, 59 yards. At 9:16 in Q3, the Hornets slammed the door and took a 28-12 lead!
Highline took the Hornet kickoff and put together a tidy drive. Beginning on their own 35, the Pirates used two big pass-plays to McCraney and MJ Baker, who capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown reception. At 5:20 in Q3, Hornets 28, Pirates 18.
With the Hornets sensing blood, they put together a 10-play drive that burned the clock. Using their ramrod of a fullback, Seamus Twohey, they punched the ball in from the 3. However, the Pirates blocked the PAT. There seemed to be hope, keeping the game as a two-score possible tie. But the Pirates failed to move the ball in the next series, turning it over on downs at their own 22. The Hornets made quick work of the opportunity and scored. At 9:40 in Q4, Hornets 41, Pirates 18.
Hope was revived when Adam Estrada took the kickoff in a crazy leg scamper that broke tackles and slashed through seams down to the Hornet 25, but a block in the back, away from the play, brought it all back. The Pirate drive faded.
The Pirates held on defense and held the next Hornet series. With the ball back, the Pirates put together another drive topped by a 21-yard, pounding work of a courageous run by Jarmaine Matthews. At 5:10 in Q4, Hornets 41, Pirates 24.
Highline finished the scoring with a “who can jump higher” throw into the end zone. McCraney, showing why he is a 4-star recruit, came down with the 22-yard pass. Final score: Hornets 41, Pirates 30.
That ends the Pirate season. Like last year, the team could not seem to get through the quarter-finals. The next step has eluded Cooper’s teams for 3 seasons. But the character of Cooper and his staff will not let this ride.
Look for a season recap story with interviews soon!