The world of sports is full of runs, streaks and slumps.
Legendary winning and losing streaks, the reigns of great players and coaches, a time of particularly good competition: these are the threads that make up the quilt of sports history.
The Spartans came oh-so-very close to breaking a sad streak of their own Friday, but were instead denied the chance to claim their first third consecutive win in recent memory Friday.
Team officials said it had been at least five years since the Bainbridge High varsity football team had won three games in a row, and, coming as they were off two recent epic shutout victories, the Spartans were looking good to lift the curse headed into Friday’s home game against the Lakeside Lions.
Alas, it was not to be.
A scrappy 35-28 loss stopped short the Spartan’s budding roll in favor of the darker, longer streak, and sent the island squad back to the locker room to face a suddenly more complicated path to the postseason.
The Lakeside game was the most pivotal game yet of the year, BHS team spokesman John Bierly said prior to kickoff, as the Spartans were battling the Lions not just for the first-place spot in the Metro League Valley Division, but also the inside track to the division’s sole 3A playoff berth.
A recent addition to the Metro landscape, the Valley Division was created earlier this year. Consisting of Bainbridge, Chief Sealth, Franklin, Ingraham, Lakeside and Sammamish high schools, the new division promised to effectively level the football playing field for the Spartans, who have historically struggled to compete against the selective programs at Seattle private schools.
The usual league leaders round out the other two divisions. The Metro Mountain Division will consist of Eastside Catholic, Garfield, O’Dea, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt and Seattle Prep; the Metro Sound Division consists of Ballard, Blanchet, Cleveland, Liberty, Nathan Hale and West Seattle.
The decision to compete in Metro at all has long been a contentious one among island sports fans, coaches and student athletes, with previous heads of the football and basketball programs historically being the most vocal programs in favor of moving to 2A. Metro dissenters cite both an often unrealistic level of competition among Seattle private schools and also the complicated and demanding logistics of traveling to away games on the other side of Puget Sound as reasons to make the switch.
For football, though, the promised benefits of the league shakeup seemed to have been finally kicking in.
Bainbridge won their last two games prior to the Lakeside loss, outplaying opponents since the second half of the game against Olympic by a combined score of 92-0 over the last nine quarters, with shutouts against Kings Way and Metro rival Ingraham.
Needless to say, excitement going into Friday’s game was high — though tempered. The Lions have teeth.
“Lakeside boasts one of the Metro League’s leading passing attacks, featuring quarterback AJ Allen, throwing to receivers Max Knight, Adolphus Adams and Will Johnson,” Bierly said.
And all those factors were in full effect against the Spartans.
The Lions leapt out in front almost immediately with touchdown scored off a 49-yard pass in the game’s first moments. They would score another, and snag one two-point conversion, before Bainbridge would respond; a 55-yard run TD by Jacob Hogger.
Always reliable Spartan kicker Tanner Shattuck came through with the conversion, leaving the Spartans behind 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, Lakeside put up seven more points, and Bainbridge, this time, had no response.
The third quarter was a Spartan affair all the way, though, as the island team dug in, held tough and matched the Lions point-for-point in a 14-all quarter.
Touchdowns were scored by Jonah Giblin, on a 32-yard pass from QB Gannon Winker; and Winker himself managed a 2-yard run for the second.
Shattuck came through on both kicks.
Sitting on the wrong side of a 35-21 score, the Spartans poured on the gas in the final quarter. But, though Max McLeod scored on a 12-yard run and Shattuck came through with the kick, the Spartans came up short in the end.
Winker passed 172 yards, completing six passes for 17 attempts.
Hogger led the team’s rushing game (76 yards).
Senior Spartan Kyle Bierly rushed 35 yards; McLeod, 14; and Winker, 12.
Receiving-wise, Giblin snagged the spotlight with three receptions for 98 total yards.
Hogger managed 74 yards, but he led the team defensively with seven tackles and five assists.
Nate Michaels, Jakob Mathisen and Solon Rich each chalked up five tackles.
Spartan Head Coach Jeff Rouser said the Spartans’ early mistakes cost them the game against Lakeside, and strong as their finish might have been it was too late to turn the tide.
“I thought we were going to win,” he said.
“We almost came back and won the game. We didn’t lose focus, we came back. We just screwed up in the beginning.”
Having missed their shot at the top spot, Rouser said the Spartans would have to put the disappointment behind them and focus on the few remaining games all the more now.
“We’re not going to lose another game,” the coach said.
With an overall season record of 2-3 (1-1 in conference), the Spartans were bumped to third-place in the Metro standings (tied with Chief Sealth). O’Dea remains in the top spot, undefeated with a conference record of 2-0 (5-0 overall).
The Spartans will travel to face off against Sammamish High School Friday, Oct. 6, before returning to host Franklin High at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 for this year’s homecoming game.
In the final game of the regular season, Friday, Oct. 20, the boys from Bainbridge will travel to play Chief Sealth.
The 3A playoffs are set to begin Friday, Nov. 3.