Sports

UPDATE: Spartans are going to state

UPDATE: The Bainbridge football team will play West Valley (Yakima) at 3:00 p.m. on

Saturday. The game will be at West Valley High School, 9206 Zier Road,

Yakima. The Rams, 8-2 for the season, qualified by defeating Cheney 18-10 on

Tuesday.

The Spartan football team qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in six years with Thursday’s 21-6 win against West Seattle at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.

The team’s next goal is to do what no Bainbridge football team has ever done in the 29 years that the playoff system has been in existence: win a state playoff game.

That opportunity will come next Saturday, as the team – now with seven wins and just two losses – travels to Eastern Washington to meet the winner of Tuesday’s Cheney-West Valley (Yakima) matchup.

Despite what coach Andy Grimm termed “not hitting on all cylinders offensively,” the Spartans had little trouble against the Indians, who boasted eight players weighing 240 pounds or more.

Apart from one 50-yard pass completion, West Seattle was continually stymied by the Spartan defense as Chris Pierce, Peter Mandell and P.J. Holton all had tackles for losses.

On one slow-developing play, Pierce penetrated into the West Seattle backfield and nearly took the handoff from the Indian quarterback.

For a while, it appeared as if the win might have been a costly one. On the final play of the first half, quarterback Clayton Hallum was slammed hard to the turf surface by the Indians’ largest lineman as the 295-pound tackle burst unblocked into the Bainbridge backfield. Hallum had his arms around two trainers as he hobbled off the field after lying on the ground for several minutes.

But he returned to play most of the second half as the Spartan offense gained more than 300 yards during the game, led by Andy Aversano’s 121 yards rushing on 20 carries and another 136 yards through the air as Hallum was nine of 16.

After an undistinguished opening series, which gained two yards on three plays, the Spartans took advantage of excellent field position on the West Seattle 40 following a 15-yard Indian punt. Bainbridge overcame a holding penalty to score in seven plays, Gary Duffner going the final 10 yards on a sweep around right end at the 6:50 mark. The key plays were Hallum’s 16-yard pass to wingback Kenny Walker in the left flat and a penalty for roughing the passer following an incompletion on a third-and-five situation.

But the Spartans were cited for a dead-ball personal foul penalty following Duffner’s score, and the try for a two-point conversion from the 18 failed.

The Spartans’ next two possessions were halted deep in Indian territory on turnovers, the first by a fumble and the second by an interception.

Midway through the second quarter, following a near-turnover on a fumbled punt and a sweep that lost five yards to put the ball on their own 24, the Spartans moved steadily downfield. Hallum was four for four during the 11-play drive, which ended with Aversano going in standing up from one yard out with 2:35 remaining. Duffner raced untouched around left end for the two-point conversion.

Using excellent clock management, the Spartans found themselves poised for a third score at the West Seattle 39 just 37 seconds later. But Hallum’s first-down pass was intercepted.

Remarkably, Bainbridge had yet another first-half possession at their own 44 following a West Seattle punt. Hallum and Jeff Tracy immediately hooked up for a 36-yard strike to put the ball on the Indian 20 with 20 seconds remaining.

But the drive ended after two incompletions and Hallum being sacked as time ran out.

The teams exchanged punts during the third quarter and early into the fourth as neither could muster a sustained drive. Then the Spartans caught a break as West Seattle lined for yet another punt on their own 12.

For most of the game, Bainbridge had tried to set up punt returns by rushing just four men, with six more dropping back to provide blocking. This time, however, they opted to rush the punter.

The timing was perfect. A low snap resulted in a near-safety as the Indian punter barely got out of the end zone before being swarmed at the four. His frustration boiled over and he was slapped with a half-the-distance unsportsmanlike call that put the ball on the two.

That set up Bainbridge’s shortest touchdown drive of the year, with Aversano going into the end zone at 6:58. Matt Wauters’ extra point was good and the Spartans were up 21-0.

West Seattle finally got on the board two minutes later, following a 50-yard pass and run as the receiver got between two defenders before being finally taken down at the Spartan three.

The drive nearly misfired following a false start penalty and Holton’s stop of West Seattle’s quarterback on an option play. But a terrific fake enabled a receiver to get open in the end zone for a seven-yard completion with 4:55 remaining. The two-point conversion failed.

The Spartans got as far as the West Seattle 16 before Hallum’s fourth-down pass into the end zone to Tracy was knocked away at the last moment. Teddy Picha picked off a West Seattle pass on the next play and the Spartans ran out the clock.

Grimm gave credit to West Seattle. “They’re a good physical group,” he said.

He also praised his own team’s effort.

“If we can get through a game like this where we struggle offensively and still win 21-6, we’re in pretty good shape.”

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