TENINO — Four years ago, if you would have told the Tenino football freshmen that they would have been playing in back-to-back state playoffs, they would have been thrilled.
Still, after a 37-26 opening round loss in the 1A state playoffs Friday night to No. 10 Mount Baker, it says a lot about how far those seniors took the No. 7 Beavers in four years that they wanted much more.
“These seniors have changed the culture here in Tenino,” head coach Cary Nagel said.
Friday night for one final time on the Black Top, the No. 7 Tenino football team fell behind and couldn’t make up the difference after losing several players to injury throughout the course of a battle with No. 10 Mount Baker.
After just one drive, 1A Evergreen League MVP Dylan Spicer re-aggravated a knee injury he’d been nursing for two weeks, and had to sit the rest of the game. Then, after Baker took the first lead, Tenino responded with a 20-yard strike from Cody Strawn to Bryan Budsberg, when Budsberg promptly broke his collarbone making a diving catch.
Though the losses were significant, throughout the night, the Beavers will lament a few missed tackles that led to the Mountaineers’ Marcques George breaking loose on several long runs.
“Mount Baker was well-prepared, we were well-prepared too, they’re just a very good football team,” Nagel said. “I think they beat us in all phases of the game tonight. You have to give credit to them, they’re a great team.”
Still, after falling behind 37-12, the Beavers kept fighting. Kysen Knox stepped in to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and picked off a pass on the next drive that set up a Strawn touchdown run that was just a little too late for a realistic comeback.
The Beavers finish their season at 9-2, splitting league championship honors with just one loss in league play, and earning back-to-back state appearances when at one time that would seem far-fetched.
Nagel credited his seniors for bringing that change in culture, and passing it forward to a young group that will be looking to reach further heights in future seasons.
“These seniors have put in a ton of work,” he said. “The work they’ve put in is shown by the product they put out on the field. I think when the seniors were talking to the young guys, the message was clear that they have to carry the torch and continue in the weight room, and those guys will probably be back in the weight room next week.”