Sparts stifle Renton for Homecoming win

Spencer Evans grinds out the yardage against Renton in Friday
Spencer Evans grinds out the yardage against Renton in Friday's 21-0 Homecoming win.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Chalk one up for avoidance.

An earlier-than-usual Homecoming game – so scheduled to dodge powerhouse O’Dea in October – brought out a robust crowd expecting big things from the BHS gridders Friday.

The Spartans took full advantage on the field, riding a balanced running game and big-play defense to down the Renton Indians 21-0 at Spartan Stadium.

Spencer Evans led the way, rushing for 68 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. On defense, the senior accounted for two of the Spartans’ five interceptions.

As a team, the Spartan D blunted the Indian ground game to just 52 total yards, and held the Renton quarterback to a dismal 4-for-19 passing for 35 yards.

“I think we have a phenomenal secondary,” said Evans, who also credited the coaching staff for having the Spartans well-prepared.

“I don’t think their quarterback was the best, but they had some great athletes on that team,” he said. “I think we just shut them down and outsmarted them, and just played better football.”

An uneventful first quarter saw the teams trade possessions.

Renton squandered an early chance to strike, when a punt return to the Bainbridge 20 was called back to near midfield for an illegal block.

A stalwart defense then stuffed Indian runners on two short-yardage plays, including a fourth-and-1 at the 35.

Bainbridge’s best chance in the frame ended at the Renton 11, when a Joe Picha pass was intercepted.

But Bainbridge played tit for tat, with Evans reclaiming possession with a diving pickoff at the Renton 26 early in the second.

The Sparts advanced the ball 18 yards on back-to-back runs by fullback Andy Aversano. Following a fumbled snap for a loss of 5, a procedure call against Bainbridge was offset by a Renton facemask.

Four plays later, Aversano went off right tackle, knifing in from eight yards out to make the score 6-0.

The try for point was blocked after a poor snap.

A sustained Renton drive – one of few on the evening for the speedy but somewhat undisciplined squad – sputtered at the Bainbridge 35.

The Indians then missed a chance to pin Bainbridge deep in its own end, punting the ball into the end zone for a touchback even though the Spartans had posted no kick returner.

Bainbridge promptly moved the ball out to the 34, leading to what proved to be the most electrifying, albeit frustrating play of the half.

Rolling right with rushers at his heels, Picha found Evans open in the flat for 66-yard catch-and-run to the end zone, a play subsequently negated by a holding penalty.

Renton then blocked a Bainbridge punt, recovering the ball at the Spartan 26 with 15 seconds left in the half.

But they were unable to capitalize. Several short passes fell incomplete, and Spartan defensive back David Underwood outjumped an Indian receiver in the corner of the end zone for an interception as time ran out.

14 unanswered

Renton’s woes continued with the second-half kickoff, when a penalty on the return gave the Indians the ball on their own 9.

On third down, Spartan junior Derek Houston thrilled the crowd with a leaping interception at the 40, returning it down the sideline to the Renton 1 yard line.

Three plays later, Aversano walked in from the right side for six.

A freak play gave the Spartans a 2-point conversion. Rolling left on a play-action, Picha found two receivers open in the end zone.

His pass went through Scott Burkland’s grasp and into the waiting arms of Michael Ersser, giving the Sparts a 14-0 lead with 9:35 to go in the third quarter.

Offensive futility marked the next Renton drive. A 15-yard quarterback keeper and an interference penalty moved the ball into Spartan territory, but a fumbled option then sent the Indians chasing the ball in the wrong direction for a loss of 24 yards. Two incompletions and a punt followed.

The Spartans had several chances to put the game away before the quarter expired, twice advancing deep into Indian territory before surrendering the ball on downs.

What proved to be their final scoring drive, midway through the final frame, appeared to have petered out near midfield. Bainbridge was forced to punt, but a Renton tackle lined up offside, giving the Spartans a first down.

Hard running by Burkland and Aversano netted 18 yards. Then Evans took the ball on a counter left, sliced back against the grain and outraced the field for a 30-yard touchdown. The kick was true, giving Bainbridge a 21-0 lead with 7 minutes left.

The game was delayed soon after, when the near-sideline sprinklers suddenly came on and jubilant fans flung themselves into the spray in the west end zone.

Play resumed only after Spartan players covered the sprinkler heads with helmets, a water cooler and one of the sideline benches.

Renton’s final two drives ended on interceptions by Evans and Underwood, the latter on a final-play Hail Mary.

BHS coach Andy Grimm praised the defense for neutralizing Renton’s team speed, and for recording its second straight shutout. The Spartans, he said, spent most of the first half “a play away” from big gains, stymied by penalties and missed blocks. That changed after the break.

“We really challenged the kids at halftime to execute at a higher level,” Grimm said.

“They responded.”

Running back Scott Burkland finished with 75 yards on nine carries, augmented by Aversano’s 13-for-47 effort. Burkland also hauled in four catches for 45 yards.

On defense, leading tacklers were Aversano, Zach Ainsley, Peter Mandell and Mike Wauters.

The Spartans travel to Fife on Friday for a 7 p.m. tilt.

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