EVERETT — For the first time in years the Mariner Marauders and Cascade Bruins squared off in a high school football game that didn’t count toward the league standings. However, Friday night’s showdown at Everett Memorial Stadium was every bit worthy of the longtime rivalry.
Brandon Rutledge caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Damien Bagley with just 28 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Marauders edged the Bruins 28-21 in a rainy non-league thriller.
“When it was tied up I looked up and was like, ‘We may be going to overtime, this is a good football game,” Mariner coach Mark Stewart said. “It’s just nice to be back period, with the band and the fans and all that stuff. But it’s a nice win, it’s nice to pull one of these out, see a young man make a play at the end, and our quarterback gutted it out after we had a player get dinged up a little bit. It was a fun Friday night game.”
The longtime Wesco 4A rivals aren’t playing in the same league this year, as Cascade dropped down to 3A and elected to play an independent schedule this season.
But this was an old-school slugfest that went back and forth and came down to the wire. Neither team led by more than seven points, the yardage was close (316-255 in favor of Mariner), and even after Mariner scored the winning touchdown the Bruins managed to get the ball into Marauder territory before the game ended.
“It was an awesome game,” Cascade coach Jordan Sieh said. “Every time we play Mariner it seems to go down to the wire. I had no doubt it was going down to the fourth quarter and sure enough it did. It was a tight game, kind of like an NFL game in that it was really close and it kind of comes down to who makes a couple big plays. Mariner mad a couple big plays at the end and won the game. Both teams played super hard, it was an evenly-matched game, and it just didn’t bounce our way at the end.”
Bagley did a lot of the heavy lifting for Mariner. The junior quarterback was forced to carry the load after star running back Cartez Williams left the game in the first quarter because of an injury sustained while making a tackle on defense. Bagley finished 8-for-15 for 125 yards and three touchdowns, and he also served as the Marauders’ primary ball-carrier, rushing 23 times for 175 yards.
“(I felt like I had to step up) a lot,” Bagley said. “They had me as a running quarterback mostly, but it’s hard when I’m just running repetitive over and over without Tez. When he runs the ball that’s my break.”
Macky James caught two of the touchdown passes for Mariner, which improved to 2-0.
Julian Thomas rushed 14 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns to lead Cascade (2-1). Lyle Binaula hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Josh Maritz for the Bruins.
The score was tied 21-21 when Mariner got the ball back with 1:58 remaining. A sack and a delay-of-game penalty left the Marauders facing third-and-22 from their own 42 and hoping not to give the ball back to Cascade with enough time to score.
But Bagley came up with a big conversion when he rumbled 23 yards on a quarterback keeper to pick up the first down. Then on the next play he threw deep down the left sideline, and Rutledge out-jumped his defender at the goal line to haul in the pass for the winning TD.
Both teams racked up huge numbers of yards on the ground in their Week 1 victories, and both teams came out with the same plan and same success Friday.
Cascade marched 65 yards on each of its first two possessions with Thomas capping both with touchdown runs, intelligently waiting for blockers on a sweep right for a 14-yarder and fighting his way to the goal line on a pitch right for a 6-yarder. In between Mariner picked up yards in big chunks, with Williams finding a seam up the middle for a 7-yard TD — a botched snap turned into a 2-point conversion and the Bruins led 14-8. Every yard on the three drives was gained either through run or screen pass.
After Williams, who had a four-touchdown night the previous week, was forced out in the first quarter, the Marauders began leaning heavily on Bagley. A series of quarterback keepers, with the occasional pass play thrown in, saw the Marauders go 89 yards on 13 plays, culminating with Bagley lofting a 13-yard fade pass to the left corner to James for a touchdown, and Mariner took a 15-14 lead into halftime.
Mariner received the kickoff to start the second half and put together a marathon drive — 17 plays, 69 yards, nearly 10 minutes, two fourth downs converted, and the drive kept alive by a roughing-the-punter penalty — to extend its lead to 21-14, James catching his second TD pass of the game on a 3-yard quick out to the right on fourth-and-goal.
But Cascade converted on a fourth down of its own for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. Facing fourth-and-5 from the Mariner 39, Maritz lofted a pass deep down the middle that just eluded the last defender and settled into the arms of Lyle Pinaula for a TD, knotting the score at 21-21.