Conquerors travel to Issaquah for state opener
November 12, 2008 · 2:34 PM
By ERICK WALKER
The football season is on the line for the Kentwood High football team.
Figuratively and literally.
Kentwood secured its first state berth since 2005 last Friday with a 35-28 overtime victory against Edmonds-Woodway. It was KW’s seventh straight win.
As much grit as the Conquerors (8-2) have shown during the seven-week stretch, they’ll need to dig deeper on Saturday at 7 p.m., when they play at Issaquah (8-2) in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The winner will host the Bothell-Curtis survivor in a state quarterfinal match-up next Friday or Saturday.
But Kentwood’s focus for now remains on Issaquah.
“They’re very big and they can do a lot of things really well,” Kentwood coach Rex Norris said.
Very big might be an understatement.
The Eagles’ offensive line averages 264 pounds per player, going from 6-3, 301-pound Dillon Reagan to 5-9, 230-pound Kevin Degginger. In comparison, Kentwood’s top offensive lineman is Hunter Blackmore (6-3, 260), whose been one of the South Puget Sound’s best the last two seasons.
It has been the play of that Issaquah line that has sprung loose star running back Grant Gallatly on numerous occasions and keyed the team’s run to the state tournament.
“They’ve got a good group of skill kids and (Gellatly) is probably one of the better running backs I’ve seen as far as vision,” Norris said.
A 5-10 junior with speed to burn, Gellatly has emerged as one of the state’s top running backs this season, going for 1,051 yards and 18 touchdowns (17 rushing) in eight games. He missed two games with a thumb injury early in the season.
But Issaquah, behind first-year quarterback Joey Bradley (87 of 160, 1,339 yards, nine touchdowns, seven interceptions) has shown the ability to pass.
The key for Kentwood, as always, will come down to the line, offensively and defensively. Top linemen Blackmore and Greg Humphreys, who each play on both sides of the ball, sat out on defense during the second half of last Friday’s state-clinching win against Edmonds-Woodway.
“We just couldn’t risk them playing both ways,” said Norris, now in his fifth year at the helm of the Conquerors. “They should be fine to play (against Issaquah).”
That’s good news for Kentwood’s rushing game, led by first-year senior starter Darrius Coleman (1,354 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns) and sophomore transfer Joseph Banks (58-503, 8 touchdowns).
Coleman has rushed for at least 128 yards in six of Kentwood’s last seven games, and has topped 200 yards twice during that span.
His best performance, however, came in last Friday. Coleman bolted through the right side of the line for a 40-yard touchdown on Kentwood’s first play from scrimmage in overtime. He finished with 255 total yards, including a 62-yard touchdown reception.
“This is amazing,” said Coleman moments after the win. “Coach told me before (overtime) to keep my feet moving and to hold the ball tight and I got loose. My line was blocking for me, everybody came over to get me and I just kept my feet going. Just like my coach said.”
Teammate Devin St. Clair (wide receiver, defensive back, return specialist) was equally as key. St. Clair, who also is a track star, collected 189 yards of total offense (30 receiving, 16 rushing and 143 in returns) and supplied the game-ending interception against Edmonds-Woodway.
As well as Kentwood has played the last seven weeks, it’ll need to do even better Saturday night.
In Issaquah, the Conquerors face a team from KingCo 4A, arguably the toughest league in the state. That conference has advanced a team to the state finals in each of the last five years. In addition, the state’s top-ranked team (Skyline, which won last year’s 3A state title before jumping back to 4A) and No. 10 Woodinville also come from the KingCo.
Issaquah’s two losses came to Skyline (38-0) and Woodinville (21-0).
The Eagles earned their state berth with a 38-18 victory against fifth-ranked Marysville-Pilchuck, which was considered an upset only in looking at the rankings.
“We anticipated that,” Norris said.
One thing Marysville-Pilchuck did do relatively effectively against the Eagles was run, which has been Kentwood’s bread and butter since the school opened in the early 1980s. M-P rushed for 326 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles.
But for the Conks to get it done, it’s going to come down to boys in the trenches.
“Ball control,” Norris said. “We have to be able to get first downs and keep their offense off the field. We’re going to have to play our best game of the year.”