With the opportunity to make school history as their motivation, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks put together their best team effort of the year and defeated the Capital Cougars 14-7 in a quad district playoff game Satruday at Ingersoll Stadium in Olympia.
The win was the first ever for a Mountlake Terrace football team in postseason play and sends the Hawks (8-2 overall) into the first round of the 3A State Football playoffs where they will face the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks on either Friday or Saturday, Nov. 14 or 15.
Mountlake Terrace Head Coach Tony Uyamam called the victory the biggest ever in the school’s football program. “To actually come out here and win a postseason ball game speaks volumes about what this team is about,” he said.
The Hawks had only played in four postseason playoff games previously in school history, all within the past five years and all four ending in defeats. The school had also never produced a football team with more than seven wins in a season.
“We talked about the historic implications of this, and this is huge,” Uyamam said. “Eight wins – and there’s no doubt, no ties, eight wins – and first postseason win in the school history. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for this group of guys.”
The victory over Capital was a total team effort, with the defense holding a Cougar offense that had been averaging more than 26 points per game, while the offense put together a win-clinching 16-play drive that ate up the final 8:11 of the game, not giving Capital an opportunity for a final comeback.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the group,” Umayam said. “We had a lot of great individual efforts that came together as a team this game.”
Just how evenly matched the two teams were showed in the final statistics: Terrace produced 14 first downs compared to Capital’s 13; the Cougars had 277 yards of total offense while the Hawks had 276; each team punted three times and had two turnovers.
The Hawks took a lead 14-7 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter on a 36-yard touchdown run by senior Ryan Lacasse, setting up a dramatic fourth quarter that would see each team possess the ball only once.
The Cougars started their final possession at their 24-yard line and drove the ball 62 yards in nine plays to the Hawk 14-yard line. On fourth down and one with just over eight minutes to go, Capital opted to go for a first down instead of attempt a short field goal, but Cougar senior Conner Kennedy was stopped for no gain and Mountlake Terrace took over possession.
With 8:11 left in the game, the Hawks were determined not to let Capital get another chance with the ball.
“We just wanted to cram it down their throat and run it for eight minutes and milk the clock,” Lacasse said.
Mountlake Terrace ran the ball 15 times in their final 16 plays, picking up six first downs and ultimately running out the game clock. Hawks quarterback Justin Hopkins threw just one pass in the team’s final possession, but it was pivotal: a 15-yard completion to Lacasse on a third down-and-13. Terrace also converted a fourth-and-one in the drive.
Umayam pointed to the team’s offensive line as the big force during the Hawks’ final drive. “Our offensive line has done a heck of a job for us all year. That’s why there was no question, we were not going to punt. We were going to keep the ball in our offense’s hand because the offensive line hasn’t let us down pretty much all year,” he said.
While the Mountlake Terrace offensive ended the game with a decisive drive, their first possession of the game was also productive. The Hawks took the opening kickoff 66 yards in four plays, ending with a Lacasse 6-yard TD run. The score was set up by a 60-yard pass completion from Hopkins to wide receiver Gabe Brady, who was wide open on a deep post play.
“It’s just a basic waggle play that is in our system and we try to be there in the beginning of the game,” said Hawk Assistant Coach/Offensive Coordinator Mike Yalowicki. “Justin made a great throw, Gabe made a nice catch; couldn’t have it any better than that.”
Capital scored their only points of the day late in the first quarter after recovering a Malcolm Johnson fumble at the Terrace 13-yard line. Three plays later Cougar quarterback Cody Jenkins rushed for a 4-yard TD; a successful PAT tied the game 7-7.
While the Cougar offense was able to move the ball at times during the game, the Mountlake Terrace defense was able to keep Capital from scoring during the final three quarters. “I think our defense was getting a little tired, but they also realized that it’s that time of the year that it’s win-or-go-home,” Umayam said. “And this group, especially this senior group, really wasn’t ready to go home.”
The Hawks held Kennedy, the Narrows League 2014 Offensive Most Valuable Player to 96 yards on 23 carries and no touchdowns.
“We were a little tired but we stepped it up and kept it together, played through it,” said Hawk senior Austin Bates, who led the defense with six solo tackles and one assisted tackle.
Mountlake Terrace is one of four 3A Wesco League teams to qualify for the 16-team 3A state championship. In addition to the Hawks’ first round opponent Marysville-Pilchuck (8-1), other Wesco League teams still in contention are Meadowdale (8-2) and Oak Harbor (7-1). To view the entire 3A state championship bracket, click http://www.wescoathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=1336&sport=1.
– By Doug Petrowski
MTHS Football vs. Capital
Terrace 7 0 7 0 — 14
Capital 7 0 0 0 — 7
10:47 – Malcolm Johnson (MTHS) 6-yard TD run; PAT good
2:12 – Cody Jenkins (Capital) 3-yard TD run; PAT good
:43 – Ryan Lacasse (MTHS) 36-yard TD run; PAT good
Records: Mountlake Terrace 8-2; Capital 7-3
MTHS next game: vs. Marysville-Pilchuck in first round of 3A State Football playoff, Nov. 14 or 15