SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish and Edmonds-Woodway high school football teams looked to be on their way to another tense finish between the perennial Wesco 3A South title contenders.
The Panthers and Warriors, who had three of their past five meetings decided by one score, were locked in another one-possession contest late in the third quarter Friday night.
But Cole Taylor and the Panthers’ defense weren’t ready to let this clash go down to the wire.
Snohomish forced four turnovers in the game’s final 13 minutes, including two crucial interceptions by Taylor, and Mason Orgill rushed for five touchdowns as the Panthers pulled away late for a 43-27 victory over E-W at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Thankfully we just stepped it up defensively and our offense is starting to finish,” Snohomish coach Joey Hammer said. “That was awesome. We had all facets of the game going. The special teams were special tonight too. Flipping the field really helped us, and our defense really came through in the fourth.”
The win helped the Panthers (3-1, 3-0 Wesco South) stay perfect in league play halfway through their conference slate. Snohomish, which has claimed at least a share of the past three Wesco 3A South titles, currently holds a one-game advantage in the win column over fellow league unbeaten Monroe, which finished in a three-way tie with the Panthers and Warriors for the 2021 league championship. Snohomish and Monroe square off in a regular-season finale Oct. 21.
“We had to get this win to work our way towards Monroe,” Orgill said. “This is a tough game and I’m glad we could pull it out.”
Taylor’s first pick came in the final minute of the third. The Warriors (1-3, 1-1) had just held Snohomish scoreless on a drive that started at the E-W 20-yard line. The Warriors, trailing 23-21, neared midfield and took a shot deep down the middle that went behind the intended receiver and into to Taylor’s hands. The senior defensive back raced up the middle for a 30-yard return to the Warriors’ 30 to set up an eventual 8-yard TD run from Orgill on fourth-and-1. The Panthers missed the ensuing 2-point try and it remained a one-score game.
Three plays later, Taylor slipped in front of a Warriors receiver and returned his second interception inside the E-W 30.
“It was literally a momentum shift. It was huge,” Orgill said. “I was on the table getting taped when Cole got his second pick, and I just knew we had the game sealed at that point. It was huge for us, and I’m really proud of Cole.”
Taylor said it was his first-ever two interception game.
“I was just so psyched,” said Taylor of his second pick. “I don’t even know how to express how I felt. It was just awesome.”
It set up quarterback Kale Hammer’s 13-yard strike to Parker Jackson in the back of the end zone for a 36-21 lead with 5:39 left.
After an E-W fumble, the Panthers were forced to punt. Caleb Podoll kicked a low line drive that took a hop and bounced off the returner’s hands. Snohomish’s Samuel Flores recovered inside the Warriors’ 1 and Orgill punched in a TD run on the next play to go up 43-21 and put the game out of reach.
Orgill had 146 yards on just 10 carries. Senior Kyle Larson added 86 yards on the ground as the Panthers finished with 224 yards rushing as a team.
“I’m going to give kudos to our bigs up front,” Joey Hammer said. “We’re dependent on them to move the line of scrimmage because (E-W’s) D-line is a stud D-line, and we just did a great job with our two-headed monster running back wise. It was electric. It was great to see.”
Podoll had a big impact on special teams. He pinned E-W inside its own 10 with his first punt, connected on a 40-yard field goal and nearly put the Warriors inside their own 1 on a punt that just barely reached the end zone. His knuckling, rugby-style kicks proved tough to field and helped lead to E-W’s final turnover.
“It gives you momentum when you need it,” Joey Hammer said. “Those critical moments when you’re kind of down in the dumps, it flips it. It just makes things happen. Then our kids took advantage of it. It’s cooler than heck.”
Jesse Hart led the Warriors with 162 yards and one touchdown on 10 receptions. He added a rushing TD. Liam Fitting had 113 yards and one score on the ground, and quarterback Steven Warren went 21-of-33 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Orgill kicked off the scoring less than two minutes in when he went untouched for a 38-yard TD run on a reverse. He tacked on another score with a 4-yard keeper out of the Wildcat formation and followed by taking in the 2-point try for 14-0 advantage with 1:51 left in the first.
Fitting broke a pair of big runs before putting E-W on the board with a 4-yard TD at the 11:16 mark of the second.
Orgill put Snohomish inside the Warriors’ 5 with 47-yard run on another reverse. A pair of penalties pushed the Panthers back, and Fitting’s sack on third down pushed Snohomish out of the red zone. But Podoll boomed a 40-yard field goal through the uprights to make it 17-7.
E-W responded with a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped by Warren’s 23-yard TD connection with Hart.
But the 4:38 left on the clock left just enough time for Snohomish to put together another scoring drive. Facing third-and-14 on the Snohomish 26, Orgill moved the chains with a 24-yard run and went on to finish the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with just 6 seconds left in the half.
Warren and Hart linked up for a 59-yard pass and Hart punched in a 4-yard TD to pull within 23-21 with 9:25 to go in the third. Hart’s 40-yard catch and run late in the fourth quarter made it 43-27.