The Curtis Viking defense had their hands full with 6-4, 255-pound Tommy Loa. The converted running back carried the ball 33 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns. In the late moments of the game, the Vikings were able to force a fumble by Loa, but still were unable to close the three-point lead of Graham Kapowsin. Photo by Rocky Ross

Time is ticking away on the playoff hopes and dreams of local high school football squads. After seven weeks of gridiron action, the post-season picture is beginning to emerge for several Tacoma-area schools. With a new seeding process for the state football tournament, things are going to get awfully exciting around these parts real quick.

When the Graham Kapowsin Eagles pad a visit to the Curtis Viking Stadium on Friday, Oct. 12, the ramifications for the winner and the loser were going to be quite serious. A win would give one of the teams a realistic chance of hosting a state playoff game, or two. A loss would push a squad into possibly a fifth-place position, which if it were to hold, would keep that team on the outside of the state playoff field.

The 4A South Puget Sound League is possibly the most brutal football conference in the state this year. The top-five teams are currently either 6-1, or 5-2. The third and fourth place teams will find themselves on the road for the opening round of the state playoffs.

This set-up holds true for the 3A Pierce County League, as well as the 3A South Sound Conference. The match-ups for those third and fourth place squads will see those teams face some of the best teams in the state.

After a first half of action that saw Curtis and Graham Kapowsin head to the locker rooms with a combined 51 points, it looked like the sort of game that would challenge the scoreboard operator in the second half. The Eagles held a slim 27-24 advantage heading into the third quarter, and few in attendance were prepared for the chess match that took place for the next 29-plus minutes of play.

Neither team was able to gain the upper hand over the other. However, Curtis had a few missed opportunities on some overthrown deep throws that could have changed the course of the game entirely.

With less than four minutes remaining, the Vikings just missed on a pass into the end-zone that sailed out of bounds. Curtis would then have to settle for a 35-yard field goal attempt that fell just short of the crossbar. The Eagles’ slim 27-24 lead looked like it would hold when new running back Tommy Loa burst through the line on third-and-eight to gain another first down. However, Loa didn’t tuck the ball away, and the Curtis defense stripped him of the ball and recovered with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Still with a timeout in their back pocket, the Curtis offense took to the field with a new lease on life. It wouldn’t last though. Curtis quarterback Kyle Russell was flushed out of the pocket and rolled out to his right. Instead of dumping the ball out of bounds toward the line of scrimmage, he launched a pass nearly 40 yards down field. The ball sailed well past his intended target and right into the hands of Graham Kapowsin’s Malaki Roberson.

By all rights, the game should have been over, with the Eagles taking a knee and running out the clock. A Curtis timeout, couple with a personal foul penalty had the Eagles in a sticky situation. Forced to punt the ball with just a few ticks left on the clock, Graham Kapowsin chose to eat a safety in the end-zone and kick the ball away with two seconds left on the clock.

Curtis would have one last chance from the Eagle 42-yard line. Russell launched a bomb toward the end-zone as time expired. The unlikely comeback was snuffed out by Roberson, who snatched the ball from the sky, just before the ball entered the end-zone. The 27-26 final score was a perfect example of just how close and competitive the game was. It’s too bad there’s not going to be a rematch.

The win puts Graham Kapowsin into a second-place tie with a surprising Rogers squad that also sits at 5-1 in league play, and 6-1 overall. The two teams will meet on Thursday, Oct. 18, at Art Crate Stadium. A win by Rogers could set up what would be a 4A SPSL championship game on Friday, Oct. 26, when third-ranked Puyallup (6-0, 6-1) and the Rams square off at Sparks Stadium at 7 p.m. Of course, Puyallup will have to get past a Curtis squad on Friday, Oct. 19, who will be playing with a sense of desperation, as they play for their playoff lives.

The 3A PCL picture will clear up a bit after third-ranked Lincoln (5-0, 6-1) and ninth-ranked Lakes (5-0, 5-2) do battle on Friday, Oct. 19, at Lincoln Bowl. Of the squads competing in the PCL, the Abes and Lancers look like legitimate contenders to make some noise in the 3A state tournament. Currently, Bethel (4-1, 5-2) sits in third place, and is a bit of a question mark. While they went to the wire with state powerhouse O’Dea in an early-season 26-21 loss, the Braves have had trouble with teams they should have probably handled. Their 35-32 win over Spanaway Lake and 19-14 win over Wilson make one wonder just how good this team is. We’ll find out when the Braves host Lincoln on Friday, Oct. 26.

If Wilson (3-2, 4-3) can get past Spanaway Lake (1-4, 2-5) on the road Friday, Oct. 19, they will lock-up the league’s fourth seed and pay a visit to the Metro League’s runner-up in the first round of the state playoffs.

Third-ranked Steilacoom has sewn-up the 2A SPSL Sound Division crown. The Mountain Division title will be decided when White River visits Fife on Friday, Oct. 19. The winner will face Steilacoom for the outright 2A SPSL title on Friday, Oct. 26. In all, eight teams will qualify for the state playoffs out of the league.

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