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Gridders blanked in season opener
"Bainbridge didn't lose its football opener because of the little things. It lost because of the big things.Big things like a 75-yard touchdown pass. Or like an interception return for a score. And big things like 290-pound Mitchell Johnson, the Washington Patriots' man-mountain of an offensive center, defensive end and demon kicker.The kids played hard, but they made a few big plays on us, Spartan coach Andy Grimm said. But the kids are buying into the idea that if we execute well, we can be okay.Although the scoreboard said Bainbridge lost 35-0 to an opponent expected to challenge the Pierce County League's top teams, the Sparts were competitive most of the night, particularly on defense. Other than one sustained second-quarter drive, led by Johnson's pile-driving blocks, Washington's scores followed big plays that may have arisen, in part, from Spartan miscues.* In Washington's first touchdown, the Sparts were on the verge of forcing rollout quarterback Lee Ramos out of bounds. But at the last second, Ramos tossed a cross-body pass for a 40-yard gain.* Washington's second score was an intercepted slant pass in which the defender waltzed in untouched after the pick.If that pass is a little higher, we catch it and go for a long gain, Grimm said.* Washington's fourth TD came on a 75-yard bomb from Ramos to Tony Paige, when the lone pass defender slipped.* And Washington's final score came after Paige, then playing defense, intercepted a pass deep in Spartan territory.Grimm said a big part of the difference between the teams was experience.We were playing two quarterbacks without varsity experience, and both of our cornerbacks were sophomores, he said. Their team is mostly seniors.The experience difference showed up in three Spartan interceptions, and in the big pass plays against Bainbridge.The game also illustrated the importance of field position. Bainbridge surrendered field position on turnovers and punts from deep in their own territory. By contrast, Johnson's booming kickoffs and punts kept the Sparts pinned deep in their own end.We can't afford to give a team like this a short field, Grimm said. Coupled with poor field position, the 14-0 first-quarter deficit made life difficult for the Spartan offense. Washington was able to blitz early and often, which stifled any Spartan passing attack. And for the most part, Washington was able to keep Bainbridge's wing T offense in check.Bainbridge had its rare chances in the third quarter. A P.J. Holton interception put the Sparts on Washington's 22, but an inopportune penalty helped Washington hold them off. The hosts were back in business moments later when Peter Mandell recovered a fumble. But again, Washington's stout defense and another penalty frustrated Bainbridge, and Jeff Tracy's field-goal try went wide.Grimm praised the two-way play of junior Gary Duffner, who led the Spartan attack with 36 yards rushing on six carries, caught a pass for three yards, recovered a fumble and led the Spartan defenders with 8 1/2 tackles.Bainbridge got 26 rushing yards from junior Andrew Linne on only two carries, and 17 yards on four carries from sophomore Andy Aversano.Quarterbacks Clayton Hallum, a junior, and Scott Burkland, a sophomore, were a combined 6-16 passing for 41 yards, with three interceptions.On defense, Holton matched Duffner with 8 1/2 tackles, while senior Clayton Wiggins added 6 1/2.Friday, Bainbridge travels to Clover Park to meet Lakes, the defending league champion and a team expected to contend for this year's 3A state title.It's definitely a huge challenge for us, Grimm said. But I'd rather do this and try to get better, than be in a weak league that we dominate. "