The No. 2-seeded Eatonville Cruisers scored first and held No. 3 Lynden Christian to a season-low six points as they cruised to a 38-6 victory in the semifinals of the WIAA 1A State playoffs Saturday evening at Art Crate Field to secure a spot in the title game next week.
It’s been almost three decades since the Eatonville Cruisers played for a state title. In 1992, they defeated the Zillah Leopards 26-23 to secure a state title behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Bobby Lucht.
Fast forward 29 years, and that sophomore quarterback is now an assistant coach for the Cruisers, and his son Jakob is now going to play for a state title.
“It is really special that Eatonville returns to the title game 29 years later,” Bobby Lucht said. “I was starting quarterback then, and Jakob is the starting wide receiver now. I am so proud of the entire team and the coaches. The community is coming together. I can’t wait until next week for the opportunity to bring home the trophy to Eatonville and the community.”
Saturday, Eatonville’s defense came into the game only allowing opponents to score an average of eight points per game. The Cruiser defense bested that by only giving up 6 points to a team that normally averages 35 points per game.
The Cruisers held the Lyncs, who averaged 181 yards rushing per game, to only 48 yards on 26 carries.
“Our defense played outstanding,” head coach Gavin Kralik said. “It is great to see them playing at such a high level when it matters the most. There is so much leadership on that side of the ball.”
The Cruiser up-tempo offense had Lynden Christian on their heels, as well.
From the opening drive, the Cruiser offense wasted no time moving down the field on the Lyncs.
On their first possession, Eatonville only needed seven plays to go 63 yards and cap the drive when Dylan Norman plowed his way through the Lyncs' defense for a 3-yard score. Job Kralik’s extra point attempt was no good, and the Cruisers took an early 6-0 lead.
After a Lynden Christian punt, the Cruisers would go 73 yards to the Lynden Christian 1-yard line before a fumbled snap thwarted another scoring opportunity.
Another Lync punt set the Cruisers up at their 45-yard line, where they drove 55 yards before quarterback Kevin Wulff capped the drive with a 4-yard quarterback keeper for the score to put the Cruisers up 13-0.
The Lyncs put up their only points by stringing together an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Tyler Sipma 14-yard carry for the score. Eatonville's Kralik blocked the extra point attempt, and the Cruisers held the lead at 13-6.
On their next possession, the Cruisers only needed six plays to respond. They drove 53 yards and capped the drive with another Wulff keeper, this time from 3 yards out to extend their lead to 20-6.
Two plays into Lynden Christian’s next possession, Eatonville’s Chase Grant intercepted a Will Conwell tipped pass at the Lyncs' 36-yard line. One play later, the Cruisers found the end zone again when Wulff connected with a wide-open Kralik for the 37-yard score. After an unsuccessful extra point attempt, the Cruisers carried a 26-6 lead going into halftime.
The Cruisers soon lit up the scoreboard again. After Wulff connected with Kralik on a 61-yard pass that brought them to the 6-yard line, Wulff picked up his third rushing touchdown of the night when he kept the ball and scampered 6 yards for the score. The extra point attempt was blocked, and Eatonville led 32-6.
After the Cruiser defense forced their sixth punt of the night, Eatonville scored their last touchdown when Wulff connected with Jakob Lucht on a screen pass that he took to the house.
Wulff accounted for all five of the Cruisers' touchdowns. He finished the game 13-16, passing for 324 yards and two touchdowns, while running the ball 21 times for 87 yards and three scores.
Lucht led the Cruiser receivers with five passes for a season-high 135 yards and a touchdown.
Despite continuing to play with an injured hand, Kralik caught four passes for 133 yards and a score. He also blocked the Lyncs' lone point after touchdown kick attempt.
Norman ran the ball 21 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Gavin Kralik said Eatonville’s defense and special teams set the offense up with great field position all night.
“It all starts with the offensive line, Waylan Mettler and Jake Wood,” he said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage this game and throughout the playoffs. They are the foundation to our team’s success on that side of the ball. Offensive line coach Potter has done a great job developing that group.”
Kralik took over the Eatonville program four years ago after long-time Cruiser coach George Fairhart accepted the head coaching job at Gig Harbor.
Kralik said many things go into a successful state run and appearance in the state title game after only four years, including “great administrative support in our school district, highly committed families, great player leadership and hardworking coaches and players.”
Eatonville will now set its sights on the title game against perennial powerhouse and nine-time state champ Royal High School. The Knights have won four of the past five 1A state titles. Kralik knows it will be a task for his team.
“Royal is extremely well-coached,” he said. “Their kids play smart and are very disciplined. In high school football, that is a formula for success. They have created a great culture. I think the two best teams in the state are going to play next Saturday, and I think it’s going to be a great contest. Obviously, they haven’t been in a ballgame in a really long time, and we’re hoping to give them a game.”
The WIAA state championship game will take place Saturday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood. The kickoff is at noon. Tickets to this game must be purchased online. Go to https://gofan.co/app/school/WIAA.