While the wet and windy weather the state experienced Friday slowed and hampered many teams around the state, the Eatonville Cruisers battled through it successfully.
Led by two Ky Nation touchdowns, Eatonville defeated the Castle Rock Rockets, 24-18, in the Southwest Washington District IV football playoffs to claim its fourth consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
How it happened
Eatonville opened the game with the ball, but the Cruisers’ first drive went nowhere, and they were forced to punt.
The Rockets got the ball at their 32-yard line and strung together a drive, aided by many penalties, to the Cruisers’ 19-yard line before the Eatonville defense got a big stop on fourth down, and Castle Rock turned the ball over on downs.
The Eatonville offense again sputtered, and the Cruisers punted the ball back to the Rockets. Two plays into their drive, a Castle Rock ball carrier fumbled the ball, and Eatonville's Max Henley pounced on it just before the first quarter ended with the game scoreless.
With the ball in Castle Rock territory at the 40-yard line, Eatonville needed 10 plays before its drive stalled at the Castle Rock 18-yard line, and coach Gavin Kralik sent the field goal unit out.
In the torrential downpour and swirling wind, Job Kralik hit on a 35-yard field goal for the first score of the night to give the Cruisers a 3-0 lead with 9 minutes left in the half.
Castle Rock returned the kick to the 20-yard line and then strung together a 13-play, 80-yard drive that was aided by a Lane Partridge 38-yard run. The Rockets capped the drive when Stephen Ibsen found the end zone on a 5-yard run. The extra point missed, and Castle Rock led 6-3 with just under 4 minutes left in the half.
A touchback on the kickoff left the Cruisers deep in their own territory at the 20-yard. Nation didn't wait long to steal back the Cruisers’ lead. On the first play of the drive, Job Kralik handed off to Walker Bruun who then pitched the ball to Nation going the other way on a reverse, and Nation followed Kralik, Aaron Tozier and Dylan Norman up the sideline before finding open space and zooming into the end zone for the score to extend Eatonville's lead to 10-6 with 3:43 left in the half.
Castle Rock answered with another 80-yard drive, this time in only eight plays during which Ibsen found the endzone again on an 18-yard scoring run. The Rockets attempted a two-point conversion to steal back that point they missed earlier. Ibsen dropped back to attempt a pass, but Eatonville's Isaiah Duncan bust through the line and flushed him and forced him to run right into a pack of Cruiser defenders, and the conversion failed. Castle Rock took back the lead at 12-10.
With under a minute left until halftime, the Cruisers needed to move quickly, and Nation took the kickoff 40 yards to set the Cruisers up at the Castle Rock 44-yard line with 45 seconds left in the half.
On the next play, Job Kralik hit a streaking Nation at the 20-yard line, and he outraced the defender to the endzone for the score to steal the lead back at 17-12.
The Rockets, with time running out, moved the ball to Eatonville’s 19-yard line but did not answer, and Eatonville head into the locker room at the half leading 17-12.
Castle Rock received the kickoff to start the second half, and after Kralik's kick sailed into the endzone for a touchback, the Rockets started at their 20-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-7 from their own 23-yard line, Rockets head coach Aaron Gehring called a fake punt that caught the Cruisers off guard. The punter had just enough time to throw up a pass that was caught, and the Rockets converted the first down.
Marching to the Eatonville 4-yard line, the Rockets faced a fourth-and-goal. Gehring called an option play, and Ibsen ran right and pitched to Partridge. Cruiser linebacker Payton Hanly broke free from his block and met Partridge at the goal line. As he went in for the tackle, Hanly lowered his shoulder into the ball, popping it loose from Partridge’s hands. The ball rolled into and out of the endzone for a touchback, and Eatonville denied the Rocket score.
Following the touchback, the Cruisers took over possession at their 20-yard line. Eatonville then put together a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Kralik scored on a 2-yard keeper to put the Cruisers up 24-12 late in the third quarter.
As they had done all night, the Rockets answered by going 74 yards on 16 plays and found the endzone when Ibsen picked up a fumbled snap and hit receiver Jayce Womack at the 5-yard line where he fought his way into the endzone for the score. Kralik busted in from the right side of the line to block the extra point attempt, and the Cruisers' lead was trimmed to 24-18 with just under 5 minutes left in the game.
The Rockets attempted an onside kick to try and get the ball back, but the Cruisers recovered the ball at their 49-yard line.
Facing a third-and-long, Kralik was flushed from the pocket and he scrambled to pick up the first down at the Rockets’ 40-yard line. Then, facing another third-and-long, Kralik kept the ball and advanced to the Castle Rock 4-yard line before sliding down to keep the clock running. One more play put the Cruisers at the 1-yard, where they went into victory formation and ran out the clock.
Four players accounted for all of Eatonville's 321 total yards. Nation and Kralik contributed all the Cruisers’ touchdowns and most their offense. Nation finished with 84 yards rushing, with 80 of those yards coming on his first touchdown of the night, and he hauled in one catch for 44 yards coming on his second touchdown.
Kralik went 4-of-7 passing for 69 yards and a score while carrying the ball 10 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. RJ Schrimpsher hauled in Kralik's other three passes for 25 yards.
Norman added to the rushing statistics with 55 yards on 14 carries.
EATONVILLE 24, CASTLE ROCK 18
E — Job Kralik 35-yard FG
CR — Stephen Ibsen 5-yard run (kick failed)
E — Ky Nation 80-yard run (Kralik kick)
CR — S. Ibsen 18-yard run (kick failed)
E — Nation 44-yard pass from Kralik (Kralik kick)
E — Kralik 2-yard run (Kralik kick)
CR — J. Womack 13-yard pass from S. Ibsen (kick blocked)