Meadowdale was playing only its second league game of the season on Friday night.
But as far as Mavericks coach Matt Leonard and his players were concerned, the implications of the annual clash with Edmonds-Woodway were absolutely huge.
“We told them this is a playoff game,” said Leonard, whose team lost its league opener to Mountlake Terrace last week. “If we fell to 0-2 in conference, that would be really tough.”
Meadowdale responded to the challenge with junior Haelin Roberts earning MVP honors with two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a spectacular touchdown reception that sealed a 28-21 victory over the Warriors in a Wesco 3A football game before a boisterous crowd at Edmonds Stadium.
The touchdown, a 96-yard pass from quarterback Drew Tingstad, extended the Mavericks’ lead to 28-14 with 3:08 left in the contest. Edmonds-Woodway then cut the deficit to 28-21 on a 1- yard TD run by Graydon Heron with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
The Warriors then attempted an onside kick that was recovered by, who else but Roberts. Meadowdale then ran out the clock to secure the victory.
“It’s a big win to start off our season and get on the right road to conference,” Roberts said.
The touchdown pass from Tingstad appeared to have been tipped by an Edmonds-Woodway defender, who came close to intercepting the ball and racing to the end zone for a game-tying score.
“Oh God. I was like frozen,” Leonard said as he watched the play unfold. “The kid broke on it perfectly. Fortunately, he didn’t come up with it.”
Roberts didn’t know if the ball was tipped.
“It fell in our favor today,” he said. “I was just keeping my eyes on the ball. I don’t what’s going to happen. It just popped into my hands.”
Roberts’ legs did the rest as he raced down the field.
It turns out had the Edmonds-Woodway defender intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown, the score would have been called back due to a defensive penalty, according to Edmonds-Woodway coach John Gradwohl.
“It wouldn’t have counted because we roughed the passer on the same play,” he said.
Meadowdale’s victory was even more impressive because the Mavericks were missing senior co-captain Tyler Ruby, who was injured early in the fourth quarter. Ruby experienced neck and spinal pain following an Edmonds-Woodway touchdown. He was immobilized and taken to the hospital in an ambulance. In Meadowdale’s season opener, senior co-captain Bailey Walsh also suffered a neck injury but returned to play the next week.
“He was in good spirits,” Leonard said of Ruby. “He had some pain right on the spine. I don’t think it’s serious.”
Ruby raised his arms to the crowd as he left the field for the ambulance.
“Our kids played so hard,” Leonard said. “It’s hard to lose our senior captain on our first drive. We were down to our JV linebacker. Our kids just played their hearts out. I’m so stinking proud of them.”
Gradwohl was disappointed by the Warriors’ turnovers and numerous penalties throughout the game.
“They played more disciplined,” he said of the Mavericks. “Discipline. That’s penalties. We didn’t play disciplined. We didn’t take care of the ball and they did and they beat us. They outplayed us and they outcoached us.”
Meadowdale (1-1 in the league, 1-2 overall) surprised Edmonds-Woodway (0-1 1-2) with a trick play to open the game. Tingstad threw a lateral pass to Jesse Navlet, who then connected on a 69-yard scoring strike to Nate Navlet before some fans had found a seat in the stadium.
“We talked all week about starting fast because we’ve been down three touchdowns in the first quarter and battled back,” Leonard said.
Edmonds-Woodway’s Tyler Rheinford tied the score at 7 with a 1-yard run with 3:40 left in the first quarter. The carry was Rheinford’s 10th straight on the scoring drive.
Later in the quarter, Roberts recovered an Edmonds-Woodway fumble. The Mavericks took advantage of the turnover. On the first play of the second quarter, Tingstad threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Harry White to give the Mavericks a 14-7 lead.
Roberts’ first interception put an end to an Edmonds-Woodway drive that started at the 20 and had made its way into Meadowdale territory at the 41.
On its opening drive of the third quarter, Edmonds-Woodway mounted 13-play, 67-yard scoring drive with Rheinford scoring on a 2-yard run to tie the score at 14 at the 9:08 mark.
The Mavericks responded with a long drive of their own, 13 plays and 80 yards, and retook the lead on a 13-yard TD pass from Tingstad to Nate Navlet with 3:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Edmonds-Woodway’s next drive was cut short again by Roberts, who intercepted the ball at the Meadowdale 26.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Leonard said of Roberts. “He does everything he’s asked every single time perfectly. And if it’s he’s wrong, his effort to fix it is better than anybody.”
Late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors drove down to the Meadowdale 6 but on fourth-and-goal were picked off by Meadowdale’s Tyree Carson, who returned the ball to the 4. A run play by the Mavericks yielded no gain, which prompted Leonard to call the pass play.
“We were having trouble running the ball and I didn’t want our defenders back up like that,” Leonard said. “We’ve been efficient throwing the ball.”
— By David Pan