What a way to make a statement.
The road to the Western Conference South Division title still goes through three-time defending champion Edmonds-Woodway and the Warriors show no signs of wanting to relinquish their crown.
Not after a stunningly one-sided 54-20 rout over Mariner in a Western Conference South Division clash Sept. 7 at Goddard Stadium.
Just how dominating was Edmonds-Woodway?
The Warriors’ offense scored on their first five possessions of the first half. The defense got into the act with a touchdown interception return and limited the high-powered Marauder offense to no first downs in the first quarter. At one point in the first half, Edmonds-Woodway led 34-0.
“We knew this was going to be a big game from day one,” said Edmonds-Woodway head coach John Gradwohl. “They’re a great football team. If you can’t get up for a big game like this, you’re going to struggle all year.”
The Warriors (2-0 in the league, 2-0 overall) are accustomed to playing in big games following a 2006 season in which they advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals.
Gradwohl eschews any comparisons to last year’s squad, but junior running back Tony Heard, who rushed for 262 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns, draws motivation from last season’s disappointing finish.
“I feel and the rest of the team feels that we are a better team than last year,” Heard said. “We made it to the playoffs and we don’t want that feeling again to lose in the semifinals. We’re going to try and make it again all the way and win a state championship.”
The graduation of so many of last year’s starters may have colored people’s view of Edmonds-Woodway coming into the 2007 season.
That won’t happen again after the week two performance.
“We’ve got a tough team. Most people just underestimate us,” said senior wide receiver/cornerback Antoinne Wafer. “We lost so many people from last year people don’t know what we have this year, what to expect from us.”
The Mariner defense was unable to slow down Heard, who rushed for a more modest 121 yards in the Warriors’ season-opening victory over Meadowdale. The Edmonds-Woodway junior spent much of last year blocking for older brother Josh.
“He really was waiting in the wings last year for his brother,” Gradwohl said. “Now it’s his opportunity. You see him. He looks like his brother with maybe a little more speed.”
Tony Heard also has the luxury of running behind senior fullback Jiwon Cho and an offensive line that manhandled the Mariner defense.
“I have to give all credit to the o-line tonight,” Heard said. “I was telling them all week that we needed to push on every single play and they did a good job tonight.”
The rest of the team simply followed the line’s lead, Wafer added. “It starts out with the first five. If the first five get going, then the whole team gets going.”
The Edmonds-Woodway defense kept the high-powered Mariner offense off-balance the entire game. The Marauders (1-1, 1-1) scored 52 points against Shorewood a week earlier but looked befuddled against the fired-up Warriors.
Edmonds-Woodway started its first four drives of the first half at the Mariner 49, 34, 44 and 36 thanks to its defense.
“The defense really gave us the ball and gave us those situations,” Gradwohl said.
Lineman Mose Fuga and linebacker Zach Greenberg spearheaded the Warriors’ defensive effort along with lineman Girume Assefa and linebacker Ryan Hansen.
Edmonds-Woodway expended so much energy in the first half that the players were a little bit winded by the second quarter. Mariner responded with a pair of touchdowns to cut the lead to 40-12. The second half saw the Warriors refocus and continue to pound the Marauders.
“We really wanted this game. This is a game we knew we had to come prepared to play,” Wafer said. “We got a little tired in the second quarter because we put so much effort into the first quarter. … We said we had to bounce back. It’s not over. The score is still 0-0 at half. So we came out and we played our hearts out and the outcome was great.”
Edmonds-Woodway senior quarterback Kyle McCartney found junior wide receiver Din Kuses on a 29-yard scoring strike at the 8:58 mark of the first quarter. McCartney then scored on a 10-yard run as the Warriors took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Heard followed with an 8-yard touchdown run and then Wafer dazzled the crowd with a 90-yard interception return. Mariner was facing fourth-and-three when Wafer picked off the pass from Mariner quarterback Tyler Tuiasosopo at the Edmonds-Woodway 10.
At first Gradwohl was disappointed that Wafer didn’t just knock the ball down. He soon changed his mind when Wafer weaved his way to the end zone.
“I wasn’t even paying attention to what down it was. I just went to get the ball,” Wafer said. “I was a little winded there (at the end) but I had to pull it out.”
Heard scored on a 19-yard TD run to boost the lead to 34-0 midway through the second quarter.
Mariner finally scored on an 11-yard pass from Tuiasosopo to Tevin Dillon. Heard responded with a 5-yard run. Tuiasosopo then found Adrien Black on a 13-yard touchdown as Mariner went into halftime trailing 40-12.
Edmonds-Woodway extended its lead to 47-12 on a 3-yard pass from McCartney to tight end Nic Arnold on the opening drive of the third quarter. Mariner’s Matt Jones ran for an 11-yard score. Heard closed out the night with a 25-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Gradwohl expected more of a back-and-forth game and added that if the two teams met again, he would expect a closer contest. He also cautioned that only two games have been played and it’s a long season ahead.
“We’re 2-0. We’re still 10 wins again from last year’s team,” Gradwohl said. “This is this year’s team and we’re playing against different teams, even though they’ve got the same names. … We’ve got potential to be a great team, but potential means you’ve ain’t’ done it.”