MARYSVILLE — Two plays into Saturday night’s 3A state quarterfinal game between Marysville Pilchuck and Eastside Catholic, it looked as though the Tomahawks had picked up right where they had left off after their first two playoff games when running back Austin Joyner broke a 72-yard touchdown.
Then the Crusaders proved why they are the No. 2 ranked team in the state. Eastside Catholic dominated both sides of the football and methodically took control of the game. When it was over, the Crusaders had earned a 65-34 victory and advanced to the state semifinals to play University.
“That’s a heck of a football team over there and we needed to play mistake free football, we knew that coming in and we didn’t quite get it done,” Marysville Pilchuck head coach Brandon Carson said.
The Tomahawks received the opening kickoff to start the game and Joyner broke his touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. He finished the game with 119 yards on 12 carries, but the bulk of those yards came on his long touchdown run and a 26-yard run late in the first quarter.
Not many teams have figured out a way to contain Joyner and his counterpart in the backfield Kacey Walker, but the Crusaders did it on Saturday.
“I’d have to look at the film and see (what they did to stop the run),” Carson said. “They are big and physical upfront and they made it tough on us off the edge. I have to look at the film and see what the issue was.”
Joyner’s touchdown got the Marysville crowd revved up, but Eastside Catholic exposed what would be a game-long problem for the Tomahawks on its first offensive possession. The Crusaders drove 82 yards in 11 plays and capped it off with a 4-yard touchdown run by Elisha Pa’aga. MP three-and-out on its next possession and Eastside Catholic marched down the field again, this time a short one, driving 50 yards in seven plays finished off with a Henry Jarvis 11-yard touchdown run.
The Crusaders knew that playing in Marysville could pose a problem, but their ability to move the football up and down the field seemed to take the Tomahawks’ crowd out of the game.
“Marysville Pilchuck does a fantastic job and we were ready for a war,” Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thielbahr said. “We talked to our kids all week along about having to go to Marysville Pilchuck in a hostile environment, overcome some adversity, worry about ourselves and execute what we need to execute and we’ll end up with a ‘w.’”
The Tomahawks answered back late in the first quarter when Deion Stell scored from 10 yards out. After a botched extra point, MP trailed 14-13 after one quarter.
It was as close as the Tomahawks would get the rest of the way.
The Crusaders scored 38 unanswered points, highlighted by a Jarvis 80-yard touchdown run that best resembled Marshawn Lynch’s famous run in the Seattle Seahawks’ 2011 playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints.
By the time the Tomahawks found the end zone again, a one-point deficit had turned into a 52-13 Eastside Catholic lead. The Tomahawks tried to get any sort of penetration against the Crusaders’ offensive line throughout the game to no avail and Eastside Catholic kept adding the points.
“They are really good up front and we knew that going in,” Carson said. “They pretty much were able to do anything they wanted to.”
Meanwhile, aside from stopping Joyner, the Crusaders were also able to shut down running back Kacey Walker, who finished with just 38 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
“We’ve got to execute on how to stop, not just Joyner, but the fullback (Kacey Walker) as well,” Thielbahr said after the game.
Despite the outcome no longer being in doubt, Carson was proud of how his team came out and finished the game in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Crusaders 21-13 in the final stanza.
“I really liked the way our kids fought there at the end of the game,” Carson said. “They did a great job. This is a special group of kids and I’m going to miss these seniors.”
This may be the final year for players like Walker and others, but Joyner and Luton and a promising surrounding cast has Carson excited for the future as well.
“We’ve got some guys coming back and the goal is to get back here,” he said. “I’m proud of our kids. We had a great season and a great run here through the playoffs. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. It’s going to sting a little bit because there are some seniors that have been around for a while.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Quil Ceda Stadium
MP—Austin Joyner 72 run (Ryan Spiva kick)
EC—Elisha Pa’aga 4 run (Jacob Gai kick)
EC—Henry Jarvis 11 run (Gai kick)
MP—Deion Stell 10 run (kick failed)
EC—Trey Reynolds 5 run (Gai kick)
EC—Jarvis 80 run (Gai kick)
EC—Gai 21 FG
EC—Pa’aga 2 run (Gai kick)
EC—Reynolds 21 TD (Gai kick)
EC—Moni Ioane 8 fumble recovery (Gai kick)
MP—Kacey Walker 5 run (Spiva kick)
EC—Cole Ivanoff 13 pass from Harley Kirsch (Andres Oyanedel kick)
MP—Kyle Nobach 68 pass from Jake Luton (Spiva kick)
EC—Brandon Wellington 50 run (kick failed)
MP—Hunter Trueax 43 pass from Luton (Spiva kick)
Records—Eastside Catholic 12-0, Marysville Pilchuck 9-3.