LACEY — For those who didn’t know, Marysville Pilchuck can play a little defense, too.
The Tomahawks’ high-powered offense rolled with its usual outstanding rushing performance in Saturday’s 33-21 victory over Timberline in the opening round of the 3A football state tournament. But it was the Tomahawks’ defense that seemed to deliver the victory — or at the very least, seal it.
Senior Kyle Nobach intercepted Timberline quarterback Chris Macneil in the end zone with just a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, allowing the Tomahawks’ offense to run out the clock. It was Nobach’s third interception of the game and it secured Marysville Pilchuck’s spot in the state quarterfinals.
“I think that a lot of people just doubt our defense,” Nobach said. “They just think it is our offense because we are getting 600 yards a game. This game, our defense won the game for us. All of the guys are just doing it. All their guys were covered and I was just trying to bait the quarterback and I did it a couple of times and he threw a couple of bad balls and I just made a play on them.”
The Tomahawks came into Saturday night’s game looking for their offense to roll like it did in last week’s victory over Mountain View. The Blazers recovered an onside kick to start the game, but Nobach ended Timberline’s drive five plays later with the first of his three interceptions.
On MP’s first offensive possession, running back Austin Joyner broke the first of three big Tomahawks running plays in the game, gaining 74 yards to the Timberline 17-yard line. Three plays later Joyner punched it in untouched from 11 yards out to give the Tomahawks a 7-0 lead.
Joyner added his second touchdown of the game, a 20-yard reception from quarterback Jake Luton, before the end of the first period. It gave MP a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
Nobach helped the Tomahawks extend their lead further in the second quarter, contributing this time on the offensive end by catching a 55-yard touchdown pass from Luton. After the extra point was blocked, MP had a 20-0 lead.
Luton finished the game 4-for-11 passing for 98 yards and two touchdowns, but fought through a bad ankle down the stretch to help the Tomahawks to victory.
“I thought our pass game was great in the first half,” Tomahawks head coach Brandon Carson said. “I thought our quarterback gave us a warrior-type effort in the second half. His ankle is banged up and we will see how he is for next week.”
Timberline finally got on the scoreboard before halftime when Macneil connected with Malachi Jones on a 34-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first of Macneil’s two touchdown passes in the game, but the Tomahawks held the prolific quarterback to just 6-for-19 passing for 70 yards and a touchdown in the first half. MP also intercepted twice the first two quarters.
Austin Joyner’s big play ability helped give the Tomahawks an even bigger advantage heading into halftime. He broke his second run of the game of more than 70 yards, scampering this time for 73 and a touchdown to give the Tomahawks a 26-7 lead at the break.
Joyner finished the game with 221 yards on 18 carries, two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown.
In the second half, momentum seemed to shift to the Blazers. They continued to hold MP running back Kacey Walker in check and mostly kept Joyner breaking the kind of big plays he had been making in the first half. Walker finished the game with just 40 yards on 22 carries.
Slowly, the Blazers clawed their way back into the game.
The first big play for Timberline came on the defensive side of the ball when Asan Niel scooped up a Marysville fumble and returned it 22 yards for a Blazers touchdown make it 26-14 MP, which was the margin after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Timberline scared the Tomahawks even further when Macneil connected with Brennon Kaleiwahea for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the Marysville lead to 26-21.
But the Tomahawks had one more big offensive play left in them. On the second play of the next drive, Deion Stell took a handoff and broke to the outside for a 42-yard touchdown run that boosted the Tomahawks’ lead to 33-21.
With time ticking away, Timberline quickly moved the ball down the field to try and cut into the lead once again, but Nobach’s interception sealed the game for the Tomahawks.
“Huge,” Carson said of Nobach’s play. “I can’t say enough about his defensive performance. The kid gets three picks and pretty much seals the deal in the end zone. It was great. He has been a pretty darn good DB for us all year. It was good for him to come up with the big game.”
The Tomahawks will play host to Eastside Catholic next weekend in the 3A state quarterfinals. It will be another challenge for the Tomahawks, but lately they have been up to the test.
“Collectively in our three phases of the game we are starting to peak at the right time,” Carson said. “We got things rolling on both sides of the football and special teams is looking pretty good, so we are happy with where we are at.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
At South Sound Stadium
MP — Austin Joyner 11 run (Ryan Spiva kick)
MP — Joyner 20 pass from Jake Luton (Spiva kick)
MP — Kyle Nobach 55 pass from Luton (kick blocked)
T — Malachi Jones 34 pass from Chris Macneil (Jonathan Dowell kick)
MP — Joyner 73 run (kick failed)
T — Asan Niel 22 fumble return (Dowell kick)
T — Brennon Kaleiwahea 11 pass from Macneil (Dowell kick)
MP — Deion Stell 42 run (Spiva kick)
Records — Marysville Pilchuck 9-2, Timberline 9-2.