SNOHOMISH — Being at the right place at the right time is an underrated skill for a defensive back.
Just ask Snohomish sophomore Caden Keithley.
Keithley’s shoestring catch on a deflected pass from Squalicum quaterback Spencer Lloyd in the end zone with under a minute remaining sealed the Panthers’ 30-27 win over the eighth-ranked Storm to claim the No. 1 seed for the Week 10 playoffs out of Wesco 3A.
“It’s beautiful,” Snohomish head coach Joey Hammer said. “It’s a guy doing his job and coming up big for us.”
Down by three, the Storm drove the ball all the way to the Panthers’ 29-yard line when senior linebacker Tyler Massena dropped back in coverage to spy Squalicum wideout Dedrick Mitchell on a deep route and landed a fingertip on the pass from Lloyd and tipped it up to Keithley, who snagged the fluttering ball.
“(I knew it was mine) all the way,” Keithley said.
The Panthers outscored the Storm 20-6 in the second half after falling behind by 11 points in the first 30 minutes.
Snohomish entered halftime on a sour note, as an interception by quarterback Tayte Conover with eight seconds remaining in the first half set up Squalicum for one final heave. The Storm dialed up a double pass, as Lloyd flicked a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Mitchell, who connected with Steven Owens for a 37-yard touchdown to put the Storm up 21-10.
That lead wouldn’t last long.
Snohomish stalled Squalicum with a three-and-out to begin the second half, then assembled with a seven-play, 74-yard drive to cut the Storm’s advantage to 21-17 with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter. The Panthers forced another three-and-out and Conover’s 2-yard touchdown run cashed in a 10-play, 57-yard drive with 11:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Lloyd scampered in from 13 yards with 9:58 remaining to put the Storm back up 27-24, but Snohomish reclaimed the lead for good with Conover’s 1-yard touchdown run on a read option, capping another long drive for the Panthers.
“We were pulling in the first half and they were scraping right behind and blowing up our run plays,” Conover said. “We came out and threw the ball a little more, which opened up the run game. And you can’t stop Tyler Larsen and Tyler Massena.”
Snohomish will host Garfield, the No. 5 seed out of Metro, on Nov. 3 after claiming Wesco 3A’s top seed. Squalicum will face Central Kitsap, the fourth-seeded team out of the South Sound Conference.
“We really turned around,” Keithley said. “Our coaches brought out a new scheme and it worked perfectly.”
— Squalicum quarterback Spencer Lloyd was 10-of-22 for 207 yards and an interception through the air and rushed for 112 yards on 22 carries on the ground with two touchdowns.
— Snohomish quarterback Tayte Conover was 13-of-23 for 152 yards with an interception and had eight carries for 51 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
— Snohomish running back Tyler Larsen rushed for 125 yards on 18 carries.
“It was honestly just asserting our will. It was just that heart of a champion. Every step you take, leave no doubt that the man across from you cannot contain you. Don’t play to his level, play to the Panther level. It’s just playing jacked up and playing to the man to the right and to your left while giving your all, because the man to the right and your left is giving their all.” — Snohomish head coach Joey Hammer
“We pounded them. We pounded the rock. We opened it up with a little bit of passing, but we kept pounding them. You could see their hands were on their hips. And that’s a classy team. That’s a great coaching staff. I pay all my respects to Squalicum, I’m just proud of what the Panthers do.” — Snohomish head coach Joey Hammer