By David Krueger Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — In Marysville Pilchuck’s biggest football game this season, the Tomahawks made a statement by beating Oak Harbor for the second consecutive year in a game that decided the Wesco 3A North title.
However, Marysville Pilchuck did it in the second half largely without star running back Austin Joyner.
Joyner, who also plays defensive back, was hurt a little moare than two minutes into the third quarter when he made a tackle and did not return. In his absence, junior Killian Page stepped up on offense with 167 rushing yards, including a 17-yard touchdown run, on 28 carries to lead the Tomahawks to a 39-21 win Friday night at Quil Ceda Stadium.
“I thought we played really well,” Tomahawks’ head coach Brandon Carson said. “Defensively, we had a couple of breakdowns, but I thought we played as well as we had all year.”
In the second half, Joyner watched from the sideline on crutches with his right foot wrapped in ice as Page and Marysville Pilchuck’s offense continued to run right at the Wildcats.
“Page was huge for us,” Carson said. “We were able to do our job blocking up front and he just did a great job.”
Senior quarterback Jake Luton also had a few big carries for the Tomahawks. On Senior Night, Luton had three 1-yard touchdown runs. He finished with six carries for 23 yards.
Luton joked that he has now established himself as a dual-threat quarterback.
“People just don’t give me credit,” Luton said with a laugh. “I can run here and there.”
The quarterback said it was tough seeing Joyner being helped off the field and tended to on the sidelines. Luton believes Joyner will do everything he can to be back on the field when the Tomahawks take on South division champion Glacier Peak in Friday’s Wesco 3A championship game.
“It’s rough,” Luton said. “Every game the kid just does it all. He goes hard on defense, he goes hard on offense. He’s fatigued, and a little banged up. We’ve got faith that he’ll be back soon.”
Before he exited the game, Joyner had 160 yards on six first-half carries, including touchdown runs of 72 and 49 yards.
Unlike last season when Marysville Pilchuck (4-0 league, 8-0 overall) had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat Oak Harbor for the North title, the Tomahawks led almost the entire game this time around.
Joyner’s 72-yard touchdown run gave MP an early 6-0 advantage. The extra point was missed. The Wildcats answered with Sheyenne Sams’ 1-yard score near the end of the first quarter and kicked their extra point to briefly take a 7-6 lead.
Marysville Pilchuck came right back with the first of Luton’s three touchdown runs. Following a score by Page, Joyner broke several tackles on a 49-yard touchdown run on the last play of the first half, putting put the Tomahawks up 27-7 at the break.
Thanks in large part to Joyner, Marysville Pilchuck outgained Oak Harbor 287 to 114 in the first half. All of Oak Harbor’s yards came on rushing plays and all but seven of the Tomahawks’ yards from their ground attack.
The Wildcats got the second half off to a good start, recovering an onside kick to start the third quarter. Oak Harbor drove down the field, with a 17-yard pass from Clay Doughty to Troy Sturdevant the key play of the drive. Not only did it get the Wildcats close to the goal line, but it knocked out Joyner, one of Wesco’s best players, who was in on the tackle.
Julian Faralan finished the drive with a 3-yard score.
“He was battling a bit of an ankle injury this year,” Carson said. “He got rolled up and couldn’t finish (the game).”
But the Tomahawks did, securing the Wesco 3A North title for the second straight season with a victory over a tough Oak Harbor (3-1, 6-2) team.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Luton said. “Back-to-back league champs. And to do it against the same team. They’re the classiest team I’ve ever played. We’ve got the utmost respect for them. They play hard.”
Faralan finished with a team-high 129 yards on 16 carries for Oak Harbor. Faralan had two touchdowns, including a 70-yard score where he ran right up the middle of the field.
Dejon Devroe added nine carries for 68 yards for Oak Harbor.
“Their defensive line is a beast,” Luton said. “I can’t think of a team this year that we gave up a 70-yard touchdown to.”
The win means Marysville Pilchuck will travel to Glacier Peak for Wesco 3A title match next Friday. Glacier Peak defeated Meadowdale 20-17 in the de facto Wesco 3A South division championship Friday night. The contest awill be a rematch of last year’s Wesco championship. However, this time Marysville Pilchuck hopes there’s a different ending than last year’s 49-40 Grizzlies’ victory.
“(The Wesco 3A North title) is real special. We’ve got a great group of kids,” Carson said. “It’s been a lot of fun. And the season just gets tougher from here on out. We’ve got to play hard no matter who we play.”