Mount Tahoma 26, Spanaway Lake 14

(Spanaway, WA) League play began in the Pierce County 3A League on Thursday night at Art Crate Field in Spanaway. The Spanaway Lake Sentinels finished in second place in the league last year and played host to the 2022 fourth place team in the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds. Since joining the PCL in 2016, the Sentinels had not lost to Mount Tahoma, including a dramatic goal line stand of the final play of the game last season. The key word in that sentence is “had.” That is because the multidimensional rushing attack of Mount Tahoma proved to be problematic for Spanaway Lake on Thursday night. A very strong defensive front also heavily helped Mount Tahoma defeat their league rivals for the first time as the Thunderbirds earned a 26-14 league win.

The opening kickoff went out of bounds to give Mount Tahoma good starting field position. That drive did not get off to a promising start as starting center Kei-Vonne Jones had to leave the game with an injury. Mount Tahoma would rally around their injured teammate and kept chugging right along as Brison Bailey and Tre’ Walker rolled with a run heavy attack that mixed in a completion from Walker to Anthony Quintanilla Jr. Taking up almost half of the first quarter, the long opening drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown run for Tre’ Walker on a QB keeper to give the Thunderbirds the 7-0 lead.

After forcing a quick three-and-out, the T-Birds got the ball in even better starting field position as they took their next snap from the Spanaway Lake 49-yard line. Again, it would be a big pass play to DJ Ervin this time and a bunch of run plays for the Thunderbirds. The offensive line just dominated in the trenches as Lou Leilua, Malachi Nielson, Pati Nuusolia, Dallas Tua, and Marquise Thorpe-Taylor just dominated the line of scrimmage. This time it would be Felix Diaz capping off the scoring drive with a short three-yard touchdown to extend the Mount Tahoma lead to 14-0 with about 30 seconds left in the opening quarter.

While there wasn’t much time left in the 1st, there was enough time for Spanaway Lake to come up with a very important answer to the Mount Tahoma offense. After a kickoff out of bounds gave the Sentinels the ball at their own 35, they would need just one play to go 65 yards. D’Aryhian Clemons reminded us that he is also a very incredible runner as he bounced handoff up the middle to the outside utilizing his great field vision. Clemons was then gone up the Spanaway Lake sideline for the 65-yard score, getting the Sentinels on the board but still trailing 14-7.

Stopping the Mount Tahoma offense was next to impossible in the first half on Thursday night. Everyone that touched the ball found success for the Thunderbirds and the formula did not need to change for head coach Keith Terry. A run heavy attack plus another big pass to DJ Ervin from Tre’ Walker would lead to six once again. Brison Bailey would finally find the endzone after being the workhorse for so long in the game as he scored from three yards out. Three different rushing touchdowns from three different T-Birds had Mount Tahoma out in front 20-7.

Things looked like they were really slipping away for Spanaway Lake as they were forced to punt after quarterback Chase Best took a big shot and was sacked on third down. Best was injured but was able to walk off the field on his own power. Issues on the punt ended up giving the ball to Mount Tahoma at the Spanaway Lake nine-yard line. This would be a bit of a turning point for Spanaway Lake. The Sentinels got a stop and forced a turnover on downs to give the ball back to their offense.

It would result in another punt for Spanaway Lake despite quarterback Chase Best returning to the game without missing an offensive snap. A terrific punt from Sebastian Cuesta took an even better bounce for the Sentinels. As Thunderbird players avoided the ball, one came diving in to try to grab the football. That touch made it a live ball and Spanaway Lake ended up recovering the fumble. A couple of plays later, Chase Best would find Jasiah Denmark in the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown. Mount Tahoma would not be able to complete a Hail Mary as the half expired, so it would be just a 20-14 lead for Mount Tahoma at halftime.

With so much action in the first half, the third quarter felt pretty uneventful. There would not be a single snap taken on Mount Tahoma’s side of the field as their defense did not allow Spanaway Lake to pick up a first down in the quarter. However, the offense of Mount Tahoma began to get in their own way. Penalties continued to push Mount Tahoma backwards and they would not be able to make up for all those penalties. Some strong catches for DJ Ervin and hard earned rushing yards for Brison Bailey and Tre’ Walker would not be enough for Mount Tahoma to score in the third quarter, but did set them up for the fourth.

On the very first play of the fourth quarter, the scoring drought ended. Again, it was the strong play of the offensive line that opened a hole for Brison Bailey and he found it for an eight-yard score. With time working in their favor, the Thunderbirds expanded their lead to 26-14.

Spanaway Lake needed to answer to just gain some momentum back on their side. Things looked really good for the Sentinels to begin the following drive. Chase Best began to find some momentum on the ground and through the air as he picked up 14 yards with his feet and found Raymond Kunimoto for a 20-yard gain. Just when it felt like the Sentinels were back in it, a tipped pass fell into the arms of defensive standout Jeremiah Anderson for an interception that flipped the game back into the favor of Mount Tahoma. The Thunderbird defense would come up with a couple more stops while Felix Diaz ran the ball hard to kill the rest of the clock, as Mount Tahoma earned the PCL win over Spanaway Lake by a final score of 26-14.

Our Education as a Career MVP of the game was Mount Tahoma running back Brison Bailey. The senior tallied 24 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns with an eight-yard reception as well. Despite getting hit in the backfield a few times, Bailey did not register a single negative carry. He had one carry for no gain and everything else was for positive yardage. Any time Mount Tahoma needed to make up penalty yardage or convert on a third or fourth and short, the ball was going to Bailey and the chains were moving. A big time playmaker in the backfield is a luxury for most teams and Mount Tahoma has an absolute workhorse that can help the Thunderbirds compete for a league title.

In other offense for Mount Tahoma, Tre’ Walker went 7-17 for 110 yards passing and added 14 carries for 44 yards and touchdown rushing. Felix Diaz also carried the ball ten times for 54 yards and a touchdown to complete the rushing attack. DJ Ervin had two carries for seven yards but did most of his damage in the passing attack. Ervin had five catches for 90 yards while Anthony Quintanilla Jr. had one catch for twelve yards. Defensively, Jeremiah Anderson recorded a sack and interception while KeShawn Hines also tallied a sack. Devon Addison got involved with a couple of big pass breakups as well.

On the other side for Spanaway Lake, D’Aryhian Clemons was the big play guy for the Sentinels with eight carries for 84 yards and a touchdown with two catches for nine yards. Chase Best went 10-23 for 74 yards and a touchdown through the air with 31 of those yards going to Raymond Kunimoto on four catches. Jasiah Denmark added four catches for himself for 34 yards and a touchdown.

This was also Mount Tahoma’s first win of the season (1-2) as the T-Birds begin league play 1-0. A big game looms next week for Mount Tahoma as they host the winners of the last two PCL titles when Lincoln visits the Thunderbirds on Friday, September 22nd at 7pm in a game you can see right here on ESN. Spanaway Lake drops to 1-2 and 0-1 in PCL play as they also continue league play next Friday at 7pm. The Sentinels will try to earn their first league win when they visit the Bonney Lake Panthers in week 4.


Mount Tahoma Strikes First

Spanaway Lake Finds an Answer

Brison Bailey Puts the Game Away





WordPress Image Lightbox