TUMWATER — The No. 1 Napavine football team didn’t exactly come out how it wanted in a 2B state quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 Liberty (Spangle), but it responded with an unstoppable offense in a 55-7 win Saturday afternoon at Tumwater District Stadium.
The Tigers trailed for the first time all year after the Lancers opening drive resulted in an early score. Former Rainier Mountaineer turned Liberty Lancer put together a strong drive against a typically stout Tiger defense, connecting on a 21-yard pass after rolling to his right and reversing field to his left to Ashton Strobel.
It was unfamiliar territory for a Tigers team that hadn’t played in 16 days after a first round bye.
“It was probably a little bit of complacency and then just executing the game plan,” Tigers coach Josh Fay said. “They weren’t doing anything that we didn’t prepare for. It doesn’t work this time of year, we’re fortunate that we got it turned around and taken care of.”
From there it was all Napavine. The Tigers rattled off 55 unanswered points, and though the defense gave up some yards, held tight after that opening drive.
The Tigers responded from the opening drive less than a minute later after Cael Stanley ripped through the line for a 27-yard touchdown, and after forcing a turnover on downs on the Lancers next drive, Ashton Demarest connected with Austin Chapman for a 48-yard touchdown on a wheel route.
Demarest ended up tossing three touchdowns with 172 passing yards, and rushed for two more scores with 131 yards on the ground, totalling over 300 all-purpose yards at quarterback.
Stanley had 82 yards on the ground on just four carries for two touchdowns, and Cayle Kelly added a rushing and receiving touchdown.
“Our offense was not the issue today, we put up lots of points and moved the ball well,” Fay said. “We definitely have to give Liberty a lot of credit for controlling the clock really for most of the first half. We’re going to have to be crisper defensively and hopefully our offense continues to play like that.”
While the defense gave up some yards through the air, with Jeske finishing 10 of 26 for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception, the Lancers were held to minus-15 rushing yards.
The result is another running clock victory for the Tigers, and yet another trip to the state semifinals, their eighth straight.
“The guys that played in the program before have set this expectation,” Fay said. “All the way back to those guys in 2007 that were grinding to get this program to where we wanted it to go. Now there’s just this expectation that we’re going to go and win each week in the playoffs and prepare like that’s going to happen and see how far it takes us. It’s awesome. This is where we want to be, we want to keep playing. One week at a time.”
The Tigers will match up against No. 4 Jenkins (Chewelah) next Saturday, likely again at Tumwater District Stadium, with a berth in the state championship on the line.
If the Tigers want to keep it rolling, Fay said the focus will be on a hotter start.
“We need to be making sure we come out and start well, that’s something we’ve done really well this year that we didn’t do today,” Fay said. “Give Liberty credit, but we have to be crisper defensively. You start chasing points this time of year and they’re hard to get back some times. Focus on coming out and executing early and sustaining some momentum when we get those opportunities.”