If there are such thing as the “football gods,” they bestowed a mixed-bag of blessings to Tacoma-area football teams to begin the various state football tournaments. There were 13 area teams hoping to advance out of the round of 16, and when the smoke cleared, only seven remained.
Easily the biggest casualty of them all was the high-flying Lincoln Abes, who hosted the Garfield Bulldogs at historic Lincoln Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 11.
The Bulldogs entered the game with what appeared to be a paltry 4-5 record. On the other hand, Lincoln boasted a 9-1 mark, with their only defeat of the season coming in the opening weekend against powerhouse O’Dea by a two-point margin. At first blush, it looked like another first-round rout was on the menu for the Abes, but that wasn’t going to be how things played out in reality.
As a matter of fact, the Bulldogs looked very much like the speedy, potent Lincoln Abes teams of past years. What may have been the biggest tipping point in the game went down during the first quarter of play.
When Lincoln senior offensive guard and defensive tackle Zach Puapuaga left the game with a lower-leg injury, he joined two other stud linemen who didn’t suit up due to injuries. Junior offensive and defensive tackle Jayden Simon and senior offensive guard and defensive end Ezekiel Sayavong were unable to make the opening whistle.
With three of the best offensive and defensive linemen in the area on the shelf, the Lincoln Abes powerful machine was unable to fire as it normally does, and a last-second field goal closed the book on this year’s Lincoln Abes, as Garfield pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the entire state by a score of 44-41.
After holding the Garfield offense to a three and out on the opening drive of the game, the Abes put together an eight-play, 60-yard drive, capped by a seven-yard, spinning touchdown run by senior quarterback Jaylen Antoine.
This score immediately woke up Garfield, who scored on the first play of the next drive, when University of Oregon commit Treshaun Harrison ran past the Lincoln coverage and hauled in a 54-yard touchdown pass. The score was now 7-7 with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
Lincoln would drive down to the Garfield 23-yard line on the next possession, but the offense stalled. A fourth-and-11 heave into the end-zone was intercepted by Garfield, and the momentum swing could be felt in the stadium.
Instead of scoring from 56 yards out on the first play from scrimmage like before, Garfield one-upped themselves. Again, Harrison blew by the Lincoln defense, and caught the ball on the dead-run for an 80-yard catch, sprint and score. Garfield now led 14-7 with 5:06 left in the first quarter.
The teams would trade the next two possessions, forcing each offense to leave the field after failing on a fourth-down attempt. A 68-yard catch and run by junior Mykel Campbell set up Lincoln at the Garfield three-yard line. On the next play, senior Pierce County League MVP Tristian Kwon dove up and over the defensive front for an Abes’ score. The game was knotted at 14-14 with 8:36 to go in the second quarter.
After a Garfield punt, and another Lincoln interception, the Bulldogs went back to work with the big plays. Jovan McConico hauled in a short pass, juked several Abes, and then sprinted down the field untouched for a 68-yard touchdown. Garfield now led 21-14 with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter.
The Abes would even the score just before the teams headed to the locker rooms. Senior linebacker Teshawn Seu entered the game to be a battering ram, and he did exactly that, plowing into the line and scoring from one yard out to knot the game at 21-21.
Lincoln took a 28-21 lead to open the third quarter on a 91-yard kick-off return by Kwon. After another score by Harrison, the game was now 28-28 and it was apparent to all in the stadium that this was a battle for the ages. Garfield went ahead 35-38 on another huge scamper by Harrison with 8:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Unwilling to back down, the Abes answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Kwon. The extra-point kick fell short, and the Garfield lead was now 35-34.
Garfield would answer immediately. Harrison ran the kick-off all the way to the Lincoln 16-yard line and the Bulldogs went to work. Three plays later, McConico ran the ball in from 10 yards out and following their own missed kick, Garfield led 41-34 with 5:22 left in the game.
With 1:55 left in regulation the Abes put together an 80-yard drive that breathed life back into Lincoln Bowl. Senior running back Austin Moeung punched the ball into the end-zone from four yards out, and following a successful kick by junior Gabriel Foster, the game was tied at 41-41.
Garfield would begin the ensuing drive on their own 45-yard line. Methodically, the Bulldogs nibbled their way down the field until reaching the 16-yard line with just a single second left in the game. Putting it all on their kicker, Garfield’s Leo Cunningham lined up for a 32-yard field goal and planted the ball just inside the left uprights for the upset victory.
Garfield will face Eastside Catholic in the quarterfinals.
In the 4A field, Monroe pulled a road upset of 4A SPSL champion Puyallup by a score of 21-14. Meanwhile, Graham Kapowsin and Sumner went on the road and pulled up huge upsets of their own. G-K dropped powerhouse Lake Stevens 38-31, and Sumner pounded Union by a score of 42-14. In the 3A field, Bethel hung with Ferndale for a short time before falling 42-14. Peninsula went to Spokane and knocked off Mountain View by a score of 10-7.
In the 2A field, Liberty was able to pull-off a road upset over Fife by a score of 24-14. Franklin Pierce was no match on the road against West Valley, falling by a score of 46-13. Steilacoom came through for the area by edging Othello by a score of 28-26 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Cascade Christian will move on in the 1A field after ousting Nooksack Valley in a 61-53 barnburner. Charles Wright wasn’t so lucky, as they fell on the road against Montesano by a score of 41-0.
Tacoma had one last chance to see one team advance on Saturday, Nov. 11, as the Tacoma Baptist Crusaders paid a visit to undefeated Quilcene. Despite being blown out by their hosts earlier in the season, the Crusaders put together a strong second half to upset the Sea-Tac League champs and advance to the 1B quarterfinals with a 54-38 victory.