Eatonville's Ky Nation goes up high to catch a pass for the Cruisers' final touchdown against Castle Rock.
1A STATE PLAYOFFS
Who: Eatonville (6-4) at Royal (9-0)
When: Friday, 4 p.m.
Where: David Nielson Memorial Field
Notable: Gorman has won 18 state titles, all in the NIAA’s highest classification; Manogue has won 13 state titles, but none at the current 5A level.
The late basketball coach Jim Valvano coined the phrase “Survive and advance” back in 1983 during his team’s miraculous run to the NCAA basketball championship. Survive and advance is exactly what the Eatonville Cruisers did this past Thursday night.
They were able to survive three turnovers and defeat the Castle Rock Rockets, 15-14, in the 1A SWW District 4 playoffs to advance to the state playoffs.
The Rockets would win the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff where they promptly marched 62 yards on 13 plays and ended the drive when quarterback Trever Rogen connected with Ryker Heller from 10 yards to put the Rockets up 7-0.
After both teams traded several punts and turnovers on downs, the Cruiser offense would finally get revved up.
With great field position at the Rocket 38-yard line, Eatonville would get on the board five plays later. Hunter Klumpar would take the shotgun snap and hand it off to Payton Hanly who would then toss it to Ky Nation going the other way. Nation would then roll out to his right and hit a wide-open Riley Hill for the 38-yard score.
In the eventual game-deciding decision, Head Coach Rex Norris signaled to go for two, which the Cruisers have done a lot this season. Out of the classic “Swinging Gate” formation, senior Hanly took the snap and on the play had a run/pass option. He saw the defenders were covering his receivers so he took off running to the endzone untouched to put Eatonville up 8-7 with 2 minutes left in the half.
Castle Rock, not liking the fact they lost the lead, would respond immediately. With the ball at midfield following a great return, the Rockets would go 47 yards and score when Rogen was flushed from the pocket and found a wide-open Coleman Guerrero for the score to steal the lead back at 14-8 as the half would come to a close.
The second half for the Cruisers didn’t start off as they had hoped. After receiving the opening kickoff and starting at midfield, they would turn the ball over for the second time on the night when Castle Rock’s Aaron Smiley pulled down an errant pass. Fortunately, the Cruiser defense would shine with a big 4th down stop to give them the ball back with just under 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
Starting at their 31-yard line, Eatonville would go 69 yards on 11 plays and tie the game when Klumpar connected with Ky Nation in the corner of the end zone from 23 yards out.
As he had done the previous week, Colton Herbrand trotted in for yet another important extra-point attempt. Just like he did in Hoquiam to score the Cruiser's 33rd point of the night, Herbrand’s kick was flawless and the Cruisers took a one-point lead at 15-14 with a little over 10 minutes to play.
The Eatonville defense then took over. On Castle Rock’s final three possessions of the game, the Cruiser defense stepped up and would force two turn over on downs and then the final dagger, Dylan Norman’s interception of Trever Rogen’s pass to all but seal the victory.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Castle Rock had already exhausted all of their timeouts, leaving them unable to stop the clock. Eatonville would go into a victory formation and take a knee with the ball, effectively running down the remaining time on the clock to clinch a 15-14 victory and a coveted berth into the state playoffs.
With a state playoff berth clinched, this will be Eatonville’s eighth appearance in the last ten years in the state tournament.
The state seeding committee met on Sunday and after looking at all 16 teams that had qualified for the tournament, they released the seeding for the tournament.
Eatonville has drawn the No. 16 seed and will take on a once-familiar foe, the top-seeded Royal Knights of Royal City. The Cruisers will have a huge hill to climb against the Knights.