Mount Tahoma 24, Lincoln 20
(Tacoma, WA) Since the 3A Pierce County League was formed in the fall of 2016, the Lincoln Abes have won five league football titles out of the seven seasons the league has existed. One of those years was the COVID shortened season of 2021 but the Abes bounced back to win the last two league championships. During that same time frame, the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds have not found as much success. After sitting at the bottom of the standings for the first handful of years, Mount Tahoma has worked their way up to back-to-back fourth place finishes in the PCL. A Friday night showdown in week 4 of this season looks like everything might have changed. Lincoln stormed out to an early lead but Mount Tahoma was able to hang around long enough to make their move. Two touchdowns in the final three minutes along with an onside kick turned the league completely upside down. A few late stops for Mount Tahoma sealed arguably the programs biggest win in at least a decade as the Thunderbirds celebrated a massive 24-20 win over Lincoln.
Lincoln received the opening kick and they were rolling from the very beginning. Freshman quarterback Sione Kaho looked extremely calm and confident in the pocket as he spread the ball to multiple different receivers including Kanoa Teplasy, Brandon Ervin, and Sebastian Esekielu. With the ball in Mount Tahoma territory, the T-Bird brough some extra pressure and Felix Diaz came up with a sack to put an end to the Abes drive as they would turn the ball over on downs. Lincoln’s defense forced a quick three-and-out and special teams would make a big impact. Jamirie Pringle broke through the line and blocked the punt back towards the endzone. Not quitting on the play, Pringle ran down the loose ball and would scoop it up and dive into the endzone for the touchdown. A big play early for Pringle and the Abes had Lincoln up 7-0.
Every single time that Lincoln was able to get in the endzone, Mount Tahoma was right there for an answer. The ground attack of Brison Bailey was vital for the Thunderbirds and Tre Walker’s scrambling ability at quarterback had the offense in a bit of a groove. In Lincoln territory for the first time, Walker had to scramble again. The senior stepped through the pressure and delivered a deep ball on the run. Zane Cordero had snuck in behind the secondary and hauled in the pass for a 45-yard touchdown. The big play strike would not tie things up as the PAT was unsuccessful, but Mount Tahoma was on the board trailing 7-6.
Penalties then slowed down both offenses into the second quarter. Lincoln head coach Masaki Matsumoto then started to lean on his rushing attack. Jadeon Scranton helped pace the offense as he chipped away at the Mount Tahoma defense. When Scranton needed a breather, there was no drop off in the running game as Maurice Gosby Jr. stepped onto the field and continued to pile up rushing yards. Great blocking on the left side of the line and by the receivers opened up a hole for Gosby Jr. and he found the endzone on a 13-yard run. Lincoln’s lead was beginning to grow as they had the 14-6 advantage with under three minutes left in the first half.
The offense of Mount Tahoma knew that the clock wasn’t in their favor but also wasn’t a big problem yet. Brison Bailey again got the T-Birds offense rolling on the next drive and some very smart scrambles by Tre Walker where he would get out of bounds to stop the clock helped Mount Tahoma control the clock and move down the field. Time did become an issue as the T-Birds had time for one last play with the ball at the Lincoln 17-yard line. DJ Ervin was held in check for the most part in this game, but with his skill as a receiver, it was only a matter of time before he made a big play. Lining up as the inside receiver in a trips formation, Ervin ran a nice corner route that had the defense out of position just enough for Ervin to get open. Walker knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball and found Ervin towards the back corner of the endzone for the touchdown. Lincoln would deny the two-point conversion attempt, but the Abes lead was cut to 14-12 at halftime.
After forcing a punt to open up the third quarter, Lincoln took over and their offense began to grind out a very long drive. Starting their first second half possession inside their own 20-yard line, the Abes began a slow, methodical march down the field. Kaho continued to look very comfortable, but he began to use his legs for the first time. A couple of 11-yard runs for the freshman kept the clock rolling and kept the chains moving. Scranton continued to chip away yardage and some completions to Teplasy and Ervin kept the drive rolling. Then, Mount Tahoma came up with a game changing play. Kaho took a shot deep but Elijah Durr read it perfectly and made a great play to pick off the pass inside the 10-yard line. The first turnover of the game made that long Lincoln drive end in no points. A strong defensive stand after that for Lincoln would force Mount Tahoma to punt to begin the fourth quarter after neither side scored in the third.
Lincoln would start the final quarter with great starting field position, at the Mount Tahoma 40. The Abes again had something brewing but ended up facing a 4th and very short inside the 10-yard line and they pulled out the wildcat. Mount Tahoma was ready for it. The T-Birds spilled it to the outside and Durr ended up making the tackle to force a big turnover on downs.
The field position battle was still being won by Lincoln. Another punt would check up and give the Abes the ball at the Mount Tahoma 21-yard line. The rushing duo of Jadeon Scranton and Maurice Gosby Jr. was just too much for a defense that was on the field a lot. Gosby Jr. would be the back to find the endzone as he scored his second touchdown of the game on a tough seven-yard run. That would make it 20-12 Lincoln with the PAT coming to try to extend the Abes lead to nine and a two-possession advantage. It was not to be for Lincoln as Mount Tahoma kept themselves alive. Once again, Elijah Durr came up with a big play as he blocked the PAT and kept it just a one possession game.
Once again, when it was time to answer a Lincoln score, Mount Tahoma was more than ready. With 3:17 to go, it didn’t take long for the T-Birds to get into Lincoln territory. Tre Walker found Logan Walker for 24 yards to get the ball to the Abes 43-yard line. The next play saw Tre Walker scramble for 18 yards moving the ball to the 25. Mount Tahoma head coach Keith Terry then called arguably the best play of the game. The T-Birds snuck Brison Bailey out on a wheel route and Walker found him for 24 yards to put the ball on the one. Bailey then punched it in for the score to make it 20-18 with Mount Tahoma going for the tie with a two-point conversion. For the second time, Lincoln was all over the two-point try as they stuffed a run by Bailey to protect the Abes’ two point lead with just 2:02 remaining.
Mount Tahoma had no choice but to try on onside kick with just one timeout. Junior Contreras-Barragan would kick a beauty that was knocked loose and the T-Birds were on it. A recovered onside kick was going to give Mount Tahoma a chance to take a very late lead. Starting with the ball at the Lincoln 48, Walker found Ervin for nine, but a personal foul on Lincoln added 15 to that to put the T-Birds on the 24-yard line. A touchdown run for Brison Bailey was taken away due to a hold. Walker would then avoid trouble multiple times to pick up ten yards and put the ball at the 14. With 48 seconds left, Mount Tahoma ran double crossers in the endzone. Two T-Birds were in the area of the pass, but one let the ball go to the back of the endzone where Anthony Quintanilla Jr. was there and he would make the catch for a go-ahead touchdown. Another missed PAT would keep it just a four point game, but Mount Tahoma had their first lead at 24-20 with just 38 seconds left.
Lincoln had two timeouts left and the ball at their own 42 after a solid kick return. It looked like it would be a quick turnover on downs, but a pass interference on 4th down kept the game alive for Lincoln. After a sack, Lincoln used their final timeout with just two seconds left on the clock. Sione Kaho dropped back to throw a Hail Mary from his own 48, but Mount Tahoma brought the blitz to not even allow the receivers to get to the endzone. Jeremiah Anderson, who recovered the onside kick, brought down Kaho for a sack as the clock expired. For the first time since 2011, Mount Tahoma had knocked off their crosstown rivals in Lincoln in dramatic fashion as the T-Birds pulled off the 24-20 win.
Our Education as a Career MVP of the game was a player who made two fantastic plays that don’t always jump out on the stat sheet and that player was Elijah Durr. Not only did Durr come up with a big interception to end a very long Lincoln drive that would have made it a two-possession lead, but he also kept it a one possession game with a huge blocked PAT. If that PAT goes through and Mount Tahoma goes down by nine, the morale of the team and stadium would have been extremely different. Not only did he keep the morale up, but Durr also raised it by blocking that PAT and giving his team belief that they could still comeback. It was a domino effect, and the first domino was knocked down by Elijah Durr.
The big win for Mount Tahoma moves the T-Birds to 2-2 overall but 2-0 in PCL play. They will get a little break from league play as Mount Tahoma will host Battle Ground next Saturday at 1pm in their final non-league game of the season. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Abes drop to 1-3 and 0-1 in league play. While Mount Tahoma gets an extra day to prepare for next week, Lincoln will lose a day as the Abes will be back in PCL action on Thursday at 7pm when they host a red-hot Bonney Lake squad.
You can catch the entire replay of this PCL thriller anytime on-demand in the link below.
T-Birds Get on the Board
Lincoln Extends Their Lead
Gosby Finds the Endzone Again
Wheel Route Sets up Mount Tahoma Score
Mount Tahoma Game Winning Touchdown