Sports

Pirate football loses chance at state playoffs

Adrian Arceo takes posession of the ball during Saturday’s tri-district playoff game. - Whatcomphoto.com/Dan Brinkman Photo
Adrian Arceo takes posession of the ball during Saturday’s tri-district playoff game.
— image credit: Whatcomphoto.com/Dan Brinkman Photo

This was not the way it was supposed to end. Hearty Pirates tearfully trudging off the field; seniors, who had just closed the curtain on the final act of the drama that is high school football, frozen momentarily in the spotlight, standing motionless upon the brightly lit turf stage, in the consoling embrace of a parent or a coach; the wide neon eyes of the scoreboard staring without pity on the scene below: Meridian 55, Vashon 0.

This tri-district playoff game, contested at Bellingham Civic Field last Saturday night, was to determine which team would advance in the state playoffs. Meridian will now move forward, and the Trojans clearly demonstrated why they are the second ranked team in the state.

The Trojans scored early and often. They notched touchdowns on four pass plays, three rushing plays and an interception that was run back for a score.

On the defensive side of the ball, Meridian wouldn’t allow the Pirates to gain any momentum, allowing only six first downs. Most importantly, the Trojans held Vashon’s biggest offensive threat, running back Adrian Arceo, to 61 yards on 14 carries, with a 14-yard rush as his longest gain of the night.

The Pirates did manage one impressive offensive series. Midway through the first period, Vashon pieced together an 11-play drive on the strength of Arceo’s strong running and moved the ball from its own 32-yard line to the Meridian 32. Unfortunately, the drive stalled, and a field goal attempt slid wide right.

Despite the huge disappointment and the aching hearts, the young men who represented the Island on the gridiron this year should hold their heads high for the way this team played with heart, never quit and gave themselves a chance when everyone thought their season was over.

A few weeks ago, fans were told the Pirates fell out of the running for the state playoffs, having lost one too many games to gain a berth. The rest of the season might be fun and exciting, observers said, but the coveted chance to win a title was no longer at hand.

All that changed when, after a four-game losing streak, the Pirates gutted out two huge wins in their last two regular season games. After taking down Charles Wright Academy at Homecoming, the Pirates chalked up a huge win over Cedar Park Christian, 35-14, to put themselves in a four-way tie with Charles Wright, Life Christian and Cedar Park for the final Nisqually League playoff spot.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the four teams went head to head in a three-game “mini-playoff” in Tacoma. And in what felt like nothing short of a miracle, the Pirates carried the day, defeating Charles Wright, 35-7, and then Cedar Park Christian, 21-0, in two of the three half-games (6-minute quarters).

Fighting their way into the tri-district playoff was a remarkable turnaround for a small, tight-knit team that should take pride in the heart and character that took them as far as they were able to go in a very challenging season.

Cascade Christian, which earned a bye in this first round, will be the only Nisqually League representative in this year’s state title chase, as both Orting and Chimacum lost in the tri-district round as well.

— Steve Edele, the father of Nick Fox-Edele, covers football for The Beachcomber.

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