KIRKLAND — No record, but more importantly, no victory.
Lake Washington slowed Jackson star tailback Johnie Kirton just enough to escape with a 12-7 victory Saturday night in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Kirton, who finished the game with 114 yards on 26 carries, fell just 13 yards shy of tying state’s single-season rushing record.
When asked if he cared at all about the record, Kirton quietly said, "No."
"I never envisioned a loss," said Kirton, who finished his senior season with 2,665 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. "It’s shocking. I’m sure it will hit me tonight when I’m going to bed."
The Kangaroos routinely put 10 men near the line of scrimmage in hopes of containing Kirton. In the end, it was just enough for Lake Washington’s first-ever state playoff victory. Jackson’s season ended with a 10-2 record.
"They just couldn’t get it going," Kangs head coach Tim Tramp said. "Steve Chmiel, our defensive coordinator, had an outstanding game plan. We came out screaming off the edge and tackled from the side."
Lake Washington’s Jeff Fritchman caught 11 passes for 126 yards to put him at 115 receptions for the season, which is among the nation’s top-five performances of all time.
Though none of the Timberwolves were thoroughly interested in Kirton reaching the record, Kirton’s rushing and Jackson’s success have gone hand-in-hand all season.
Matthias Wilson’s record of 2,678 yards — set in 13 games for Ferndale in 1997 — appeared broken when Kirton broke lose for an apparent 51-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves were called for holding, however, and eventually punted.
Leading 7-6, Richie Tri’s punt rolled out of bounds at the Lake Washington 6. Quarterback Ryan Staudacher and Fritchman went to work, connecting five times for 61 yards during a 94-yard TD drive.
Fritchman’s final reception — a 14-yarder to the Jackson 1 — set up Mason Siddick’s 1-yard plunge for the final score with 2:03 remaining.
Jackson had one last chance, but the Timberwolves dropped a pass on third down and were stopped short of the marker on fourth down. Though disappointed with the loss in Jackson’s first trip to state, Timberwolves coach Joel Vincent liked what he saw from his team this season.
"I thank my seniors for teaching us how to win at this school in football," Vincent said. "Nobody can take away that they are (Western Conference South Division) champions."
Though Lake Washington (7-4) passes the ball on nearly every play, the Kangs were able to keep the ball out of Kirton’s hands with their ball-control passing attack.
Staudacher, a junior, completed 28 of 37 passes for 271 yards. Though the Kangaroos scored only twice, they never punted. Staudacher, who was sacked only once, got rid of the ball quickly before Jackson’s solid defensive line could get to him.
"We were struggling to cover the flat — it was a challenge for us all night," said Vincent, whose team managed only 203 yards of total offense. "And, we weren’t getting a lot of heat on their quarterback. If he stands back there and gets that kind of time, he’s going to find people open."
Lake Washington rushed for only 35 yards, but substituted with short passes.
Staudacher completed seven of nine passes during the Kangs’ first possession to lead a 14-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 7:32 off the clock.
A bad snap on the extra-point attempt kept Lake Washington’s lead at 6-0 with 4:24 remaining in the quarter.
The Kangs allowed Kirton only 39 yards on 11 carries in the first half. A holding penalty well behind Kirton erased a 15-yard gain and killed one Jackson drive.
Vincent elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Lake Washington 7 in the second quarter, but Rich Lee-Kim recovered a fumble at the 7.
Jackson cornerback Immanuel Baal intercepted a Staudacher pass at the Jackson 21 with 3:08 remaining in the half to keep the Kangaroos’ lead at 6-0.
Jackson came up short on fourth down again in the third quarter.
Andrew Williams made the gamble pay off, however, when he stripped the ball away from Fritchman at the Kangs’ 10. Kirton carried to the 1, and then gave Jackson a 7-6 lead with 3:09 remaining in the third with a 1-yard TD run.
Staudacher finished the game with 2,680 passing yards this season. Fritchman, who is 5-feet-10, 160 pounds, increased his totals to 115 catches for 1,528 yards.
Lake Washington—Fu 13 pass from Staudacher (kick failed)
Jackson—Kirton 1 run (Bruns kick)
Lake Washington—Siddick 1 run (pass failed)
Records—Jackson 10-2. Lake Washington 7-4.