Sports

Gridiron clampdown

A frustrated Andy Grimm throws up his hands after a Lakeside intentional grounding was not called by officials. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
A frustrated Andy Grimm throws up his hands after a Lakeside intentional grounding was not called by officials.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

The Bainbridge football team paid its first Metro League visit on Saturday to Lakeside, The House That Built Bill.

But a group of referees who put the “Home” into “Homecoming” at Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ alma mater nearly made the Spartan trip anything but user-friendly before Bainbridge pulled out a 20-19 nail-biter to remain undefeated in Sound Division play.

Though the picturesque leafy Lakeside campus bears a strong resemblance to a small New England college, it has an athletic field more suited to playing peewee football.

The tiny bleachers meant that most of the scores of Spartan faithful were strung out along the sidelines. The proximity to the field of play soon resulted in harsh words being exchanged between fans and overbearing game officials who ordered them to move back by threatening penalty calls against the team.

Things became especially ugly after egregious calls on successive plays early in the third quarter resulted in a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against the Spartans, one for players’ language and the other when coach Andy Grimm stepped onto the field in disbelief following an obvious Lakeside intentional grounding penalty that wasn’t called.

Lakeside took advantage of the situation to push the stunned Spartans back to their own two, where the Lions had a first-and-goal situation.

“That got us mad,” said linebacker P.J. Holton. “We weren’t going to let them score. Other Spartan teams would have folded. But we were too pumped up. This is a special team. We’re all friends.”

Two rushing plays put the nose of the ball about the thickness of a floppy disk from the goal line. But the Spartans’ now-ferocious defense stuffed a sweep and the Lions settled for a field goal and a 12-7 lead.

That defensive stop proved crucial as it kept the Spartans within a single touchdown and the Spartan offense, by now as pumped up as the defense, moved downfield to take the lead. That set up a wild fourth quarter in which the Spartans lost the lead again, regained it, and then held off a late Lion drive.

Somewhat ironically, that drive ended on what could easily have been called pass interference on the Spartan 10. But the referees, perhaps deciding that they had already had too much influence on the outcome of the game, let the play stand as an incomplete pass and the Spartans took over on downs with 16 seconds remaining.

Quarterback Clayton Hallum took a knee, and his jubilant teammates swarmed onto the field as the officials made a quick exit.

The game opened somewhat quietly, with no hint of what was to come. But the third possession proved the charm. The Spartans overcame a clipping penalty on Michael Wauters’ punt return to march 57 yards in 13 plays as Andy Aversano twice made the necessary yardage on fourth-down plays.

Kenny Walker went the final nine yards on a delayed counter around right end to the serenade provided by the gentle chimes in the Lakeside chapel. Jeff Tracy’s PAT was good and the Spartans led 7-0 at 8:10 in the second quarter.

But the Lions responded with a 34-yard kickoff return. A series of runs won them first and ten on the Spartan 15, but strong defense forced a field goal to make the score 7-3 with 2:49 remaining.

The Spartans appeared poised to score again as Aversano gained 13 yards on a pass in the left flat and Andrew Linne added 12 more to gain the Lakeside 40. But Hallum’s second pick of the afternoon gave the Lions the ball back with less than a minute to go on their own 34.

A reverse gained 16 yards. And a substantial cluster of Spartan fans with a collective several centuries of football experience could not recall a precedent for the accompanying penalty – a chop block called on a Spartan defender in the Lion backfield.

Just as inexplicably, the penalty was ruled a personal foul and 15 yards were tacked on at the end of the run, advancing the ball to the Bainbridge 35.

“They’re making this up as they go along,” grumbled one fan.

Lakeside netted 29 yards on a sweep and then scored on the next play with 16 seconds remaining in the half. The PAT was good but a Lakeside holding penalty pushed the ball 10 yards back.

This time Spencer Evans deflected the kick, a play which would eventually loom large in the aftermath of a one-point decision.

Things really started getting out of hand soon after the teams returned to the field. Lakeside took a short kickoff and reached the Spartan 44 before punting. But a Spartan lineman was blocked into the punter and then flagged for roughing. The by-now frustrated Bainbridge players erupted in anger and the striped shirts walked off 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, allowing Lakeside to retain possession.

Another questionable call – a textbook intentional grounding that the officials ruled “incomplete pass” – earned a too-vocal coach Grimm an unsportsmanlike, and fired up the Spartan defense, who stopped the Lions in their tracks.

Gary Duffner set the tone by rushing for 14 yards on the first play. Eventually the Spartans faced a fourth and three on the Lakeside 39. But Aversano made it three-for-three in fourth down conversions as he swept right, bounced off a tackle in the backfield, turned the corner and took the ball 14 yards to the Lakeside 25.

A short pass to Duffner and two Duffner runs moved the ball to the five, and Aversano went over right tackle for the go-ahead score on the next play. Tracy’s extra point was again good and the Spartans were up 14-12 at 1:38.

But the Lions weren’t done. Three running plays put the ball on their own 49 as the third quarter ended.

To that point in the game, Lakeside had tried just one forward pass, the controversial “incomplete.” But on the first play of the fourth quarter, the quarterback lofted a perfect pass to a wide-open receiver and after a successful extra point the Lions were on top again 19-14.

Though stunned by the suddenness of the turnaround, Bainbridge wasn’t about to quit either.

Duffner swept around left end for 20 yards on the second play after the kickoff, then Evans went the other way to put the ball on the Lakeside 36. With the ball on the 20 three plays later, Duffner carried around right end to the Lakeside seven.

On the next play, he started left, then cut inside an Aversano block for a touchdown at 8:53. The Spartans went for two points but failed, leaving the score at 20-19 with nearly nine minutes left to play.

The Spartan defense held and Bainbridge finally appeared to catch a break when the ensuing punt went just 15 yards, giving the offense excellent field position at the Lakeside 49. But three plays netted just one yard and Hallum punted to the Lakeside 16.

Again Lakeside refused to fold and moved steadily upfield on the ground as the clock wound steadily down.

The Lions converted a third and inches on their own 49 with 2:08 left, and converted a fourth and two to advance to the Bainbridge 40 with :36 remaining.

A long pass down the left sideline was just out of bounds, then a game clock that moved with the same agonizing slowness of a 200MB download on a 14.4 modem allowed Lakeside a running play that consumed less than a second before the Lions called a timeout on the Bainbridge 38 with 28 seconds left.

A quarterback keeper netted five yards to the Spartan 33. Another timeout.

With a slight wind in their favor and a kicker of demonstrated ability, going for the winning 50-yard three-pointer wasn’t out of the question.

But Lakeside tried to strike through the air. As the defender wrapped up the would-be receiver on the 10, the Spartan faithful standing nearby held their collective breaths as the official’s right hand moved ominously near his right rear pocket but then continued on its way, unburdened by a yellow flag. A penalty call would have allowed Lakeside just enough time to try for a game-winning field goal.

Hallum took the final snap and the game was over.

Though Lakeside rushed for 198 yards - slightly over the Spartans’ goal of holding the Lions to 160 - Bainbridge accounted for 259 rushing yards of their own. Duffner led the team with 116 yards while Aversano added 93 and Walker had 45.

The Lions grind-it-out ground game resulted in a great deal of Spartan gang-tackling. Holton was involved in 23 tackles, Chad Wagoner 22, Evans 19, Aversano 15, Peter-Contesse 14 and Peter Mandell and Chris Pierce 13 each.

The team hosts Seattle Prep on Friday in another crucial game. A win would assure the Spartans of the chance to play for a berth in the State playoffs regardless of the outcome of next week’s regular season finale against O’Dea.

“Prep’s a lot like us,” Grimm said. “They run out of the Wing-T and have a good halfback and fullback. Their line is fairly young but they do a good job. And they’ll definitely come in fired-up.” At 2-2 in the Sound Division, 4-2 overall, the Panthers must defeat Bainbridge to have any hope of post-season competition.

Grimm feels that his team will be ready.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “Our kids really compete, and they’ve done a great job in a lot of different environments.”

Bainbridge JVs 21, Blanchet JVs 0 - The Spartans scored three touchdowns and a safety to win Monday’s home game.

Zach Ainsley opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 15-yard sweep counter. The PAT attempt failed.

Andrew Shelton’s 30-yard run on a sweep in the second quarter extended the margin to 12-0. Joe Picha threw a 15-yard pass to Zach Townsend in the third quarter and Mike Wauters’ PAT made the score 19-0.

A fourth-quarter safety closed out the scoring. Robby Firth, David Underwood and Townsend all had interceptions.

Bainbridge frosh 48, Lakeside frosh 16 - The Spartans broke open Thursday’s tight 18-16 game in the second half by scoring 30 unanswered points. Adam Heinrich was named EMAS player of the game for his work on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 52 yards and scored twice, while recording five tackles and two assists and keeping constant pressure on the Lion quarterback.

Zach Smith rushed for 85 yards on four carries and scored once to earn offensive player of the game honors.

Lucas Clark was named defensive player of the game as he led the team with five tackles, seven assists and two fumble recoveries. Also notable were Angelo Ritualo, Will Glass, Cameron Sachs, and James Tjemsland.

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