By STEPHEN EDELE
For The Beachcomber
The curtain fell on the Vashon High School football season last Saturday night, when the Pirates suffered a heartbreaking 14-7 loss to the third-ranked Montesano Bulldogs.
The game, the quarterfinals of the state championship playoff tournament, was a game that exemplified the Pirates’ personality, as Vashon once again demonstrated the heart, the determination and the pride that accounted for the most successful season in VHS football history.
For the first time ever, the Pirates had earned a spot in the state playoffs, coming off a huge and gritty 22-21 come-from-behind victory over Meridian High School in the preliminary round.
Now Vashon was to face a Bulldog team that had advanced to the semifinals the last two years, had accumulated a 10-0 record this year, and whose average margin of victory was 24 points.
At the start of the game, a Bulldog fan was overheard to remark: “Vashon is seven and four. Seven and four? They shouldn’t even be in the playoffs.” The Pirates must have heard him. They played a game that proved without a doubt that they deserved to be competing with the Division 1A elite.
The 100 or so Pirate fans were easily outnumbered by three times as many Bulldog rooters, but it was the Vashon section that made most of the noise throughout the night as the aggressive play of the Pirates turned the Bulldog fans into the silent majority.
On a cold evening, the Pirates warmed up the crown on their opening drive, gaining a pair of first downs on an 11 yard scamper by quarterback Quinn Holert and a successful pass from Holert to wide receiver Matt Kerns. The drive stalled, however, after Holert was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
Neither team could get much offense rolling until Montesano eventually got great field position with a first and 10 from the Vashon 39. The Bulldogs looked like they were going to score, but Nick Fox-Edele ended the drive when he intercepted a Josh Tyler pass at the 15.
The Pirates seemed to have something going when Holert ran for 25 yards on a third and ten, but a holding penalty brought that play back and Vashon was forced to punt. Montesano then called eight straight running plays to score on a 34 yard drive and take a 7-0 lead with 8:22 left in the half.
After the kickoff the Pirates took over at their own 20, and Nathan Betz, who once again ran the opposition ragged throughout the night, decided that he wasn’t going to let the Bulldogs gloat for too long. He took the first play from scrimmage, a quick pop over the left side, and ran for 77 yards to the Bulldog 3. On the next play, Betz carried the ball in for the score to tie the game.
Near the end of the half, Fox-Edele grabbed his second interception of the night at the Bulldog 28 yard line. On the very next play, however, Montesano intercepted right back and the half ended in a 7-7 tie.
The Vashon defense stuffed the Bulldogs at the start of the second half, but a fake punt play took the ball all the way to the Vashon 28 and Montesano eventually scored to go ahead 14-7.
The Pirates kept fighting back. The offense, highlighted by a great diving catch by Matt Kerns for a 14-yard gain, kept moving the ball downfield, but couldn’t find a way to score.
The defense held the Bulldogs scoreless for the rest of the game. With time running out, the Pirate defense put up a wall of steel on a fourth and 1, stuffing the Bulldog runner for no gain and giving the Pirates another opportunity. Unfortunately, the Pirates were just not able to get the ball in the end zone before time ran out.
The disappointment was palpable as the boys huddled on the field after the game.
Coach Clay Eastly told his players: “It has been an honor to coach you. You have a huge heart.” Senior Tim Jovanovich told the underclassmen: “You can do this. You can be state champs next year. Our season may have ended tonight, but next season starts tomorrow. Work hard and believe in yourselves.”
It’s been a great season. I can’t wait until next year. Go Pirates!
— Stephen Edele is the father of Pirate Nick Fox-Edele.