LAKE STEVENS — It was an unfortunate case of deja vu for the Lake Stevens football team Saturday night.
For the second straight year the Vikings went up against Newport in the playoffs, and for the second straight year the Knights ended Lake Stevens’ season.
Newport rushed for more than 500 yards and held Lake Stevens to 10 offensive plays in the second half as the Knights defeated Lake Stevens 43-40 in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament at Lake Stevens High School.
Last season, Newport won 62-35 to knock Lake Stevens out of the 4A Quad-District playoffs.
“They’ve only thrown the ball 24 times all year, so we kind of figured what their game plan was,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “But you still have to be able to stop it and they were pretty physical up front. We had a hard time stopping their run even though we knew it was coming.”
After a frantic first half that saw 61 total points scored, the two teams combined for 22 in the second half.
Newport took its second lead of the game on a Nick Keithley touchdown run early in the third quarter. Lake Stevens answered with a 4-yard score by running back Andrew Grimes, putting the Vikings back on top, 40-36.
That lead held until about three minutes into the fourth quarter when Paul Wells’ third touchdown of the game gave the lead back to Newport, which retained it the rest of the way.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Lake Stevens quarterback Jacob Eason threw a pass that was intercepted by Newport’s Jordan Sanberg. However, the Knights returned the ball to Lake Stevens four plays later with a fumble on fourth-and-inches, giving the Vikings the ball on the Newport 24-yard line.
Lake Stevens drove down to the 6-yard line before fumbling the ball back to the Knights in the red zone. Newport, which finished the game with 541 yards on 83 carries, took possession of the ball with 6:05 left in the game and ran out the clock.
“It’s something that they’re really good at,” Tri said. “They’ve done it to teams all year long.”
Lake Stevens fared much better in the first half of the game, jumping out to the lead almost as soon as the opening whistle blew. It took just 14 seconds for Lake Stevens to get its first lead of the game when junior Brandon Otis returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
It was the first of two return scores for the Vikings, who added an 88-yard kickoff return by Hunter Eckstrom late in the first quarter.
“Any time we can score on (special teams), you give yourself a huge advantage,” Tri said. “We had the momentum there in the first half. We just had a few mistakes we didn’t capitalize on.”
Grimes had rushing touchdowns of 19 and 20 yards in the first half to help Lake Stevens pull out to a 33-15 lead. He added his third score in the second half and finished with 12 carries for 95 yards, bringing his season total to a school record 1,688 yards, breaking the old mark of 1,479 set by Isaac Molstre in 2006, according to the Lake Stevens team statistician.
But Newport started its run late in the second quarter, with a 48-yard touchdown run by Sanberg and a 12-yard score from Wells to pull to within 33-28 by halftime.
“I’m just really proud of our guys. They played hard,” Tri said. “We just have to make plays when it counts in big games and they made a few more than we did tonight and that was really the difference.”
Lake Stevens suffered another loss when junior linebacker/running back Sam Burke was injured on Wells’ second touchdown run — the last play of the second quarter. An ambulance and aid workers tended to Burke, who Tri said suffered a broken leg.
“You never want to see that happen to anybody,” Tri said. “It might take the wind out of your sails a little bit but at the same time you also want to rally for your brother and for the family. So guys wanted to play hard for Sam.”
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Newport 15 13 8 7 — 43
Lake Stevens 20 13 7 0 —40
LS–Brandon Otis 90 kickoff return (Ignacio Ponce kick)
LS–Andrew Grimes 19 run (Ponce kick)
N–Jordan Sanberg 45 run (Justin Lau run)
N–Paul Wells 44 run (Hunter Hahnemann kick)
LS–Hunter Eckstrom 88 kickoff return (kick failed)
LS–Grimes 20 run (Ponce kick)
LS–Riley Krenz 3 pass from Jacob Eason (kick failed)
N–Sanberg 48 run (Hahnemann kick)
N–Wells 12 run (run failed)
N–Nick Keithley 3 run (Sanberg run)
LS–Grimes 4 run (Ponce kick)
N–Wells 18 run (Hahnemann kick)
Records–Newport 9-2 overall. Lake Stevens 9-2.