By Rick Anderson The Daily World
ABERDEEN — Their offense scarcely saw the field for the opening 15 minutes, but Montesano’s Bulldogs never lost sight of a long-awaited return to the Tacoma Dome.
Quarterback Matthew Jensen ran 64 yards for a touchdown on his team’s first play from scrimmage and Austin Baker provided two key interceptions as Montesano thumped King’s 35-13 in a state 1A football quarterfinal Saturday night at Aberdeen’s frigid Stewart Field.
In the process, Monte avenged a 35-20 loss to Kings (9-3) in last year’s playoff opener.
Dominating the second half, Montesano wound up racking up 372 yards of total offense.
Yet the final score didn’t reflect the difficulty the Bulldogs had in the first two periods.
They trailed for the first time this season when King’s scored on the game’s opening possession. The Knights controlled the ball for 12:01 of the game’s opening 13:15 — and trailed 14-7 at that stage.
Three critical plays, two of them on defense, swung the momentum on Monte’s direction.
Throwing underneath Montesano’s coverage, King’s junior quarterback Billy Green completed his first nine passes. Six of those came on the opening drive, which ended with Green flipping a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ben Welch.
After Montesano scored, Green continued to throw darts and marched the Knights to the Montesano 15 as the first quarter ended. On the first play of the second quarter, however, Baker timed his break perfectly on a sideline pattern, stepped in front of a receiver to intercept inside the Bulldog 10 and returned it all the way to King’s 15.
“That really changed the complexion of the game,” Coach Jensen said.
Three plays and a King’s encroachment penalty later, running back Evan Truax scored on a 5-yard run. Jensen’s conversion pass to a wide-open Shad Rogers made it 14-7 and Montesano wouldn’t look back, scoring 21 unanswered points.
The Bulldogs put together a 74-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Matthew Jensen, whose ball-handling skills were such that he even faked out an official on one run in which the linesman believed another back was carrying the ball, had gains of 12 and 11 yards and three pass completions to set up Ibabao’s 1-yard scoring plunge.
The Knights were back on the march in the waning moments of the half when Baker again intercepted near the goal. That enabled Monte to maintain a 20-7 halftime lead.
It was also the second of four King’s turnovers. Montesano had none.
“Once you get into the playoffs, it’s all about turnovers,” King’s coach Jim Shapiro said. “When you are playing a great team, that’s going to be the difference-maker.”
The second half was all Montesano. The Bulldogs came away empty on a couple of trips into the red zone in the third quarter, but tallied twice in the final period on Truax’s 10-yard run and Jensen’s 15-yard pass to Mendenhall.
Applying more pressure to Green and dropping their linebackers into coverage, the Bulldogs limited King’s to one first down until the Knights’ final drive, when ended with Green’s 1-yard run.
“Our defensive coach (Brian Hollatz) told us they will not beat us throwing the short pass,” Baker said. “No completed long passes, we did our job and coached called it right.”
Jensen led all rushers with 122 yards on 12 carries. Used relatively sparingly in the first half, Truax also cracked the 100-yard barrier with 105 yards on 22 carries.
Green finished 21-of-31 through the air for 212 yards. Caleb Taylor, who turned a short reception into a 50-yard gain on King’s final drive, had nine catches for 113 yards.
Ibabao, who filled in for Stefan Green (nursing a sprained ankle, Green played only defense last night) at fullback, earned praise from Coach Jensen for his play on both sides of the ball.
At Stewart Field, Aberdeen
K—Welch 1 pass from Green (Gleghorn kick)
M—Jensen 64 run (kick failed)
M—Truax 4 run (Rodgers pass from Jensen)
M—Ibabao 2 run (kick failed)
M—Truax 7 run (Truax run)
M—Mendenhall 15 pass from Jensen (Mendenhall kick)
K—Green 4 run (kick failed)
Records—King’s 9-3 overall. Montesano 12-0.