The Vashon Pirates were at a serious disadvantage at their home season opener Friday night, but that did not stop them from making an admirable attempt at covering both offense, defense and special teams with the same core group of players, scoring a touchdown with just seconds left on the clock.
Despite having just 18 players eligible on the roster, of which nine were playing high school football for the first time, they pulled off a touchdown against the Sultan Turks, a team with twice as many players and many of them with a significant physical advantage.
Head coach Clay Eastly called the 35-6 loss a valuable learning experience.
“The kids played their hearts out,” he said. “It would have been nice to win it, but it doesn’t affect our path to the playoffs at all.”
Eastly is looking ahead to the coming weeks when several team members on the roster who could not play this week will be able to join the team on the field. The lack of relief players available had a real impact on how effective the team could be in Friday night’s game.
Nearly everyone who could play did play the entire game, while the Turks had a complete second string, many of whom outsized the Pirates on the field. While Eastly acknowledged that the Turks’ players are bigger, he says the Pirates were prepared. “We were more athletic. We are used to playing bigger guys.”
That athleticism and the team’s developing defense showed as the Pirates had a great goal line stand against the Turks at the end of the first quarter, denying them a score. But the defense was hard-pressed to keep up the pressure on a continually fresh offense, and that led to multiple touchdowns and field goals by the Sultan players over the course of the game.
Richard Rivas-Gutierrez moved the ball up the field with a 30-yard rush in the third quarter, but the gains were not enough to put together a score until the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. That’s when quarterback Elijah Dougher saw no options to pass and took the ball down the field himself to a touchdown.
That provided an opportunity to start a new Pirate tradition of blowing a ferry foghorn with each home team touchdown. The horn was donated by Roy and Kathleen Whitman and reverberated throughout the field, to cheers from the large crowd in the stands.
Coach Eastly said some of the players turned in outstanding performances.
“Ryan Nelson and Jack Cunningham were all over the field on defense. Logan Higuera, playing for his first game ever, did a great job at center and linebacker. All of the players on the field had to go above and beyond in what was a tough game,” he said.
The Pirates have 28 players on the roster this year, and with more eligible to play in the games ahead, Coach Eastly is optimistic the team will be on a more even footing with upcoming opponents. He also said the large number of freshmen and other new players means there is an opportunity to develop skills and really improve over the course of the season.
“There are things to work on as far as timing and awareness of the game,” he said, “which we will fix as our team develops and matures. I really look forward to our continued development over the course of the season.”
Vashon will host the next game against Coupeville at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
— By Anne Higuera, parent of a Pirate player.