KICKED INTO GEAR

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Foss Falcons no match for Fife freight train

By Justin Gimse
jgimse@tacomaweekly.com

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Fife senior running back Lavelle Alexander made an impact for the Trojans on both sides of the ball. Running the ball behind a line that would be the envy of most 3A schools, the Trojans ran up and down the field, finding the end-zone at will. Photo by Rocky Ross

When high school football teams hit the third weekend of the season, it’s when things start to get a little more serious. With most teams done with their non-league schedule the business of league play takes center stage. Of course, when you’re dealing with just an eight-game schedule like the teams in the 2A South Puget Sound League, the room for error is even less than the schools running full, nine-game dockets.

After the third week, the frontrunners begin to make their mark on the league standings. When it comes to the 2A SPSL, the team truly making its mark has got to be the Fife Trojans.

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Not to be outdone, Fife senior quarterback Xavier Preston is probably a greater threat with his quick feet, than with his solid arm. Photo by Rocky Ross

Every year, the Trojans seem to find themselves jockeying for a playoff spot by the season’s end. While their luck has run short once they’ve hit the state tournament, the fact that they are constantly serving up winning teams says a great deal about this program just a stone’s throw east of Tacoma. Fife has always suited up some exceptional talent but this season they’ve got some beef on both sides of the line that could up the ante for the Trojans when it comes to playoff time.

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The Foss defense put in an admirable performance against a roster that doubled their numbers. Photo by Rocky Ross

The Trojans have 11 players, each who tip the scales at 230 pounds or more, including two players who are well over 300 pounds. What these brutes did on the defensive line against the Foss Falcons on Friday, Sept. 15, was the difference maker in the game at Mt. Tahoma Stadium. The upstart Falcons entered the game riding high off their 21-7 upset victory over defending SPSL champion Franklin Pierce the week prior. On paper, it looked like the matchup had the makings of a serious contest.

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The big boys had other ideas, once the Fife offensive and defensive lines began asserting themselves. Foss senior quarterback Aaron Swazer found himself with a huge body blocking his throwing lanes almost immediately. Any flow that the Falcons were hoping to maintain kept getting batted away or rushed. With University of Washington commit MJ Ale harassing anybody and everybody in the Falcons’ backfield, the night grew very long for Foss.

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When he had some daylight, Foss senior quarterback Aaron Swazer looked sharp. Foss senior tight end Orlando Stumvoll breaks away from the defense. Photo by Rocky Ross

Looking at the two teams suited up on the sidelines, a casual football fan would have been able to point out a big difference between the two teams. Fife nearly doubled the number of players that were suited up for Foss. When a team is suiting up just 25 players at the 2A level, it’s just a matter of time before the sheer numbers of their opponent begins to make their mark. Fife nearly doubled the number of players with pads and helmets, and when that team has some big studs on both sides of the ball, that smaller bench begins to look rather empty as the game wears on.

If football fans were hoping for a close game, Fife wasn’t going to be helping out. Once the flood gates began to open for the Trojans, there was no stopping them on their way to a 49-0 victory.

The Falcons were threatening to score after the opening kick-off, working the ball all the way down to the Fife 29-yard line. When 255-pound Soli Paleso’o sacked Swazer back at the 35-yard line, the Falcons had no choice but to go for it. An incomplete pass followed and Fife took over possession with their engines already firing.

Fife put together an 11-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a short dash to the pile-on by junior running back Day’Jon Brooks. The Trojans led 6-0 with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter. The Falcons were able to push the ball out to midfield on the next possession, but were forced to punt the ball. It didn’t work out for Foss, as the snap sailed over the punter’s head and was recovered at the Foss 27-yard line by Fife senior defensive back Lavelle Alexander.

It would only take Fife four plays to find the end-zone again. With a first-and-10 from the 16-yard line, Alexander put the cherry on top of his fumble recovery. Alexander looked to be heading left, but cut back into the middle, shedding a Foss tackler, and then wove his way through the remaining traffic and into the end-zone. After senior running back Xavier Preston punched the ball across the goal-line on the two-point conversion, Fife now led 14-0 with 9:04 left in the second quarter.

It was at this point in the game when the Fife defensive push began to wreak havoc on the Foss backfield. The Trojans held Fife to a three-and-out, forcing them to punt from their own 44-yard line. The ball thumped off the side of Swazer’s foot and nearly went straight up. When the ball hit the turf, it bounced backward, culminating in a minus-14 yard punt for Foss and tasty field position for the Trojans.

Fife continued their ground game and five plays later the Trojans were sniffing the end-zone again at the Foss six-yard line. Alexander would add another touchdown as he outraced the defense to the right corner and Fife was cruising. Adding a two-point run by senior quarterback Falani Jennings, the Trojans now led 22-0 with 6:57 left in the first half.

On the ensuing kick-off, the Foss side of the stadium erupted as the Falcons returned the kick for a touchdown. However, a bad block nullified the score and Foss would have to settle for the ball on the Fife 36-yard line. Two plays later, Fife junior Gavin Ginnis intercepted the ball on his knees at the 11-yard line.

The Falcon defense then stepped up and forced the Trojans to punt the ball away. Starting a fresh set of downs near midfield, the Falcons looked to get a little momentum going. The hope wouldn’t last long as Fife junior linebacker Sekai Samuela blocked a pass attempt by Swazer and gathered it in for an interception. Fife would take over on the Falcon 38-yard line and the ground game went right back to work. Six plays later, Preston burst up the middle from just inside a yard outside of the end-zone and Fife took a 29-0 lead into halftime. The Trojans tacked on another 20 in the second half.

Fife (2-0 SPSL, 3-0 Overall) is a heavy favorite over visiting Lindbergh (0-2, 0-3) on Friday, Sept. 22, at Fife Stadium. The Falcons (1-1, 1-2) will travel to play Evergreen (0-2, 0-3) in a matchup that should see the boys from Tacoma get back to .500 on the season.

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