It was a night of history for the Mountlake Terrace football team.
By defeating Kamiak 21-12 on Oct. 31 in a steady and sometimes gusting rain at Edmonds Stadium, the Hawks clinched their first post-season berth in school history, the first six-victory season in 35 years, and the team’s first-ever win against Kamiak.
For all those reasons, it also was a night of joy.
“I’ve played football for 10 years and this is the happiest game of my entire life,” said Mountlake Terrace running back Casey Ellersick, who led the Hawks with 122 rushing yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns. He also had a defensive interception.
Afterward, Mountlake Terrace players, coaches and fans loudly celebrated the team’s upcoming postseason game, the school’s first since the state football playoffs began in the mid-1970s.
“We’re just amazed right now,” Ellersick said. “The first time in school history going to the playoffs. We’re just all overwhelmed, I guess. We’ve put in a lot of hard work, and we showed our school and our community that we have what it takes to go to the playoffs.”
Mountlake Terrace coach Tony Umayam said his players “have a sense of the history. … It’s been a few years coming.
“This is a big reason why I came back to my alma mater to coach,” he added. “To hopefully someday get them to this point. You battle through the ups and downs of the season. … I have a good coaching staff and these kids have really worked hard the last year, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Against Kamiak, Mountlake Terrace took advantage of two special teams plays to swing the game’s momentum.
Early in the second quarter, the Hawks’ Jhalen Brown broke through to block a punt by Kamiak’s Thomas Fossedal at the Knights’ 25-yard line. The ball bounced backward and was recovered by Mountlake Terrace’s Julian Snow at the Kamiak 10.
On the first play, Ellersick took a handoff around the left end and won a foot race to the pylon at the corner of the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
Then in the third quarter, Kamiak lined up for a 45-yard field goal attempt. The kick was low and struck players in the middle of the line, and the ball popped into the air before landing in Brown’s arms at the 26-yard line.
He broke to the left sideline and raced untouched for a 74-yard touchdown. The extra point gave Mountlake Terrace a 14-6 lead.
“If it wasn’t for our special teams, we probably wouldn’t have won that game,” Umayam said.
Kamiak answered with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but a two-point conversion try failed and the Hawks still clung to a 14-12 lead.
The Knights got the ball back after a missed Mountlake Terrace field goal attempt, but failed to get a first down on four plays with just under four minutes left in the game. Taking over deep in Kamiak territory, the Hawks moved 27 yards in four plays for an insurance touchdown, with Ellersick gaining the final 5 yards with a plunge through the left side.
Ellersick then sealed the outcome with an interception in the waning moments.
“I’m really proud,” Umayam said. “We were able to battle through the ups and downs of a big game like this. We’re not used to having a whole lot of games where there’s so much buildup.”
Mountlake Terrace will host Central Kitsap in the first round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Edmonds Stadium.
Kamiak, meanwhile, was repeatedly victimized by its own mistakes. In the first half, the Knights missed a short field goal attempt on their opening possession, had a punt blocked on the next, threw an interception in the end zone on the third, and then missed another field goal try on the final play of the half.
In the second half, Kamiak had a field goal blocked for a touchdown and had two more turnovers.
“It was good high school football game,” said Kamiak coach Dan Mack. “Our special teams kind of hurt us. But Mountlake Terrace came out and played well, and my hat is off to them.”
Despite the loss, Kamiak also advances to the playoffs and will visit Auburn, the South Puget Sound League No. 1 team, this weekend.
Rich Myhre writes for The Herald.