Capital 16, Timberline 15
(Lacey, WA) Playoff football came early for fans of the South Sound Conference as the Capital Cougars were in a must-win situation when they visited the Timberline Blazers on Thursday night. A win for Capital would give them a chance to grab one of four playoff spots from the SSC while a Timberline win would clinch playoff spots for both the Blazers and Peninsula with Yelm and Gig Harbor already locking up their spots. The landscape got more interesting as Capital’s defense dominated and despite the offense not scoring a single point, the Cougars were able to save their season by knocking off the Timberline Blazers 16-15.
It was a pretty quiet first half. Capital really dominated the opening 24 minutes. The Cougars consistently moved the ball with some short passes from Nolan Lahn to a variety of receivers. Blake Ostrander mixed him some runs but was pretty well bottled up by the Timberline defensive front. While Capital consistently got the ball in the redzone, the Cougars could not find a way to score as a fumbled snap and an interception killed a couple of those opportunities and a turnover on downs put an end to another.
Timberline’s offense was not successful either as the first Blazer drive ended in a safety which gave Capital a 2-0 lead. The Blazers didn’t pick up a first down until their fourth and final drive of the opening half when Cedric Ragland completed three passes to Sunny Nguyen for 50-yards to get the Blazers in field goal range. Gage Pedro hit a field goal, but a penalty moved them back and a bad snap kept the Blazers off the board as we went to halftime with Capital leading 2-0.
It was more in the same for most of the 3rd quarter. Capital moved the ball but could not finish off a drive. Timberline struggled to move the ball at all and then finally there was a breakthrough. However, it would be Capital’s offense that scored the first touchdown. Chase Waters would pick off a pass and took it to the house for a pick six. Capital’s first touchdown extended the Cougar lead to 9-0.
With a sense of urgency, Timberline’s defense came up with their best drive of the day. Ronaldo Salazar-Gonzalez led the way with some nice chunk plays on the ground while Ragland completed a couple of nice passes to Gunner Westbrooks and Keenan Shea. With the ball inside the 5, Ragland would have his number called and found the endzone on a two-yard QB keeper for a touchdown to get the Blazers on the board, trailing 9-7.
Timberline’s defense would again bend but would not break. A third takeaway would give the ball back to the Blazers after an interception. However, the Cougar defense would hold again before Capital had to punt. Timberline would have issues with the punt and the loose football went into the endzone. Mack Wysocki would end up on the free ball for a touchdown as the special teams struck this time for the Cougars as they took a 16-7 lead in the 4th quarter.
An injury to Cedric Ragland had Timberline bringing in Synjae Colston to play quarterback for the Blazers. The sophomore only needed two passes to get the Blazers into the endzone. A 15-yard completion to Eli Evans got the ball to midfield and then Timberline would hit their home run play. A deep shot from Colston found the waiting hands of Darrell Gipson Jr. who trotted into the endzone for a 50-yard score. An extra point later, and we had a one-point game with Capital leading Timberline 16-15 late in the game.
Capital started to march down the field as they tried to kill off the rest of the clock but another interception gave life to Timberline. As the Blazers looked for a late go-ahead drive, Capital’s defense had one last play in them. On the first play of the drive, Timberline took a deep shot, but Kai Laukkanen was there for the interception. A few kneel downs later, and Capital had earned a gritty 16-15 win.
Our Thorbecke’s MVP of the game went to a defensive standout in Mack Wysocki. The sophomore was all over the field with some big tackles and led the charge in stopping the Timberline rushing attack. Add in the recovered muffed punt for a touchdown and Wysocki was influential in multiple phases of this one.
For the Capital offense, it was a pass heavy attack. Nolan Lahn went 18/29 for 164 yards through the air and also ran the ball six times for 10 yards. Blake Ostrander was the leading rusher with 15 carries for 38 yards for the Cougars. In the aerial attack, Lucas Redman was the leading receiver with six catches for 62 yards. Kai Laukkanen added six catches for 40 yards as well with a lot of catch and run yardage. Greigh Bulloch and Donte Pridgen each had two catches for 29 and 22 yards respectively. Finn Brake also had a nine-yard catch and Hunter Sayre added a two-yard catch.
All in all, the Timberline offense had a tough time moving the ball. Cedric Ragland went 6/13 through the air for 88 yards while Synjae Colston went 2/3 for 65 yards and a touchdown. Darrell Gipson Jr. was the recipient of that touchdown as that was his lone catch for a 50-yard score. Sunny Nguyen tallied four catches for 69 yards while Eli Evans had a 15-yard catch, Keenan Shea had a 13-yard catch, and Gunnar Westbrooks had a six-yard reception. Ragland also carried the ball nine times for 26 yards and a touchdown. Ronaldo Salazar-Gonzalez added 17 carries for 47 yards on the ground as well. In a limited role, Ramar Reid mixed in five carries.
Capital’s win moves the Cougars to 4-4 and 3-3 in South Sound Conference play. They will finish the regular season next Friday night at 7pm when they visit South Sound Stadium again to take on River Ridge. Timberline drops to 4-4 and 3-3 in SSC play and their next game will decide their fate for the 2023 season. The Blazers face a must-win situation when they visit Peninsula next Friday night at 7pm.
To watch the entire game replay on-demand, you can follow the link below to the NFHS Network with a subscription required.
Capital Pick Six
Timberline Fights Back
Cougars Seal the Deal