POULSBO — The faces were different, but the results were the same.
The North Kitsap ground game didn’t miss a beat in week one without its powerhouse offensive line and running back from a season ago. Viking runners picked up 326 yards on the ground as they narrowly escaped with a 20-14 victory at home against Bainbridge on Sept. 1.
Noah North scored a 12-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that proved to be the difference. He led all rushers with 133 yards on 17 carries. Senior back Clayton Williams also broke the century mark with 116 yards on 10 carries.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we’ll make a good jump and have a good week of practice,” head coach Jeff Weible said. “I think the four or five days we had to be inside really set all the teams back. You just don’t get the reps you need.”
Both teams made some mistakes and showed a little early season rust, no doubt a bit behind schedule after losing some outside practices to wildfire smoke. In fact, Bainbridge fumbled on its very first play from scrimmage. North Kitsap pounced, and Isaiah Kahuna scored a two-yard touchdown just minutes into the game.
Andrew Blackmore added a 14-yard touchdown toss to Aidan Allsop to give the Vikings a 12-0 first quarter lead.
But the Spartans showed they could go toe-to-toe with North Kitsap after a few years of lopsided losses.
Their triple-option offense was humming in the first half, controlling possession of the ball. Two Ryan Wilson interceptions on defense also helped keep the North Kitsap offense off the field for long stretches.
A 24-yard field goal by Tanner Shattuck got Bainbridge on the board, and in the second quarter, they finally started getting across the goal line.
Max McLeod scored a two-yard touchdown on an option pitch to cut the deficit to 12-10. Just before halftime, Gannon Winkler aired one out and hit McLeod in stride in the end zone for a 41-yard score to give Bainbridge a 17-12 lead. Winkler threw for 113 yards, and McLeod caught three passes for 77 yards.
“Gannon had a heck of a game,” Bainbridge head coach Jeff Rouser said. “He was a leader — not just throwing the ball, but running the ball, making good decisions, being a leader out there. There’s a lot of being a quarterback beyond throwing the football, especially in our offense.”
North’s late third quarter touchdown, in which he bulled his way through a few Bainbridge defenders, put the Vikings back on top. Blackmore then converted on the two-point attempt.
Meanwhile, the defense gradually wore down the Spartans over the course of the second half, limiting their offense to just one play of 10 yards or more.
Kyle Green recorded three sacks in the game, two in the second half. Sophomore lineman Cache Holmes also recorded a huge sack for an 11-yard loss midway through the fourth quarter to halt a Bainbridge drive that was gaining momentum.
“Kyle’s a beast,” Weible said, “… he’s a true definition of what a Viking is — an unselfish player.”
Bainbridge was hoping for one more offensive drive, but a penalty dashed all hope. North Kitsap lined up at the Bainbridge 20 on fourth-and-two with about 45 seconds left on the clock and managed to draw the Spartans offside for an automatic first down. The Vikings then lined up in victory formation and ended the game.
“You gotta sell out on that play,” Rouser said. “I was telling them to sell out because we have to make the play, so that’s a tough one. At the same time, that’s a good call by the coach. You have to give them credit.”
North Kitsap 20, Bainbridge 17
BI 3 14 0 0 — 17
NK 12 0 8 0 — 20
NK — Kahana 2 run (kick blocked)
NK — Allsop 14 pass from Blackmore (2-pt. failed)
BI — Shattuck 24 field goal
BI — McLeod 2 run (Shattuck kick)
BI — McLeod 41 pass from Winkler (Shattuck kick)
NK — North 12 run (Blackmore run)
Rushing — NK: North 17-133, TD; Williams 10-116, Kahuna 14-63, TD; Solis 3-12, Fisher 1-2. BI: McLeod 9-61, TD; Winkler 12-34, Ledbetter 7-25, Abullarade 2-22, Griffiths 4-14, Wilson 3-8.
Passing — NK: Blackmore 3-9-25, TD; Jones 0-1, INT. BI: Winkler 5-14-113, TD.
Receiving — NK: Allsop 1-14, TD; Kahana 1-6, Solis 1-5. BI: McLeod 3-77, TD; Giblin 1-27, Wilson 1-9.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.