Coming into the 2017 season, Edmonds-Woodway Warriors coach John Gradwohl felt his team strength would be its overall speed and strong defense made up of eight or nine returning starters from last year’s squad — including four first or second team All-Wesco players.
“We have a lot of returning guys on defense. Dominic Lawrence, Noah Becker, Tyler McAtee, Tyler McClendon, Bryan Sarnowski, Aaron Richardson, a lot of good guys,” Gradwohl said. “Early in the year, I think the defense will probably lead us. Hopefully the offense will come along and be a big part of it, but defenses always seem to be a little ahead of the offenses, and with so many returners, we’re kind of counting on it. We’ve got some team speed. We’re not the biggest team in the world, but we got some team speed.”
As the game progressed between the Warriors and the visiting Jackson Timberwolves Friday night in Edmonds Stadium, Coach Gradwohl’s words seemed prophetic, as Edmonds-Woodway ground out a hard-fought, low-scoring affair and secured a 10-0 victory over their Wesco 4A counterparts.
Coming into the game, there was a lot of talk about the explosive capabilities of Jackson, due in large part to their speedy 6-foot-4, 220-pound wide receiver Daniel Arias, who committed to the University of Colorado this summer and is considered by most as one of, if not the best, wide receiver in the state of Washington.
The Warriors defense came in prepared to deal with Arias and the Timberwolves offense, and flashed that team speed in the process, flying sideline to sideline to contain Jackson ball carriers.
With 8:21 to play in the second quarter, Bryan Sarnowski stepped in front of a Jackson defender and intercepted the Wolves quarterback, Ben Oleson ending that drive. Edmonds-Woodway’s left handed quarterback, Reilly Chappell fumbled and handed the ball right back to Jackson after being hit from behind in the backfield by a charging Caviyon McCallister. The Warriors defense refused to budge though, when Tyler McClendon sacked Oleson on fourth down, forcing a turnover on downs with under three minutes to play in the first half.
That’s when the Offense showed some signs of life. Feeding senior running back Noah Becker a steady diet of carries, including a fifteen-yard gem down to the Jackson five-yard line with 2:14 remaining in the half. The ball was then taken to the end zone on the following play for the only touchdown of the game.
Becker finished the game with 106 yards on 19 carries with the lone touchdown. On Jackson’s first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Edmonds-Woodway’s Kelly Jackson intercepted a pass along the sideline returning it to the Jackson twenty-four yard line with 1:36 to play in the half. The warriors managed to get the ball down to the one yard line, before a penalty forced them to settle for a short field goal from senior kicker Jackson Karr, as time expired, sending the game to half-time.
After the half, the Warriors settled in and continued to stifle the Timberwolves offense, aided along the way with some timely penalties against Jackson that cost the wolves more than one long gaining play, essentially killing drives.
Late in the fourth quarter, Jackson was driving deep into Warrior territory. On fourth-and-17, Ben Oleson hit Daniel Arias over the middle for a 16-yard gain that was just short of the first down marker. A measurement confirmed it was short of the first down, thus turning over the ball on down yet again on the Edmonds-Woodway 7-and-a-half yard line.
The Warriors’ Noah Becker put the proverbial nail in the coffin when he ripped off a twenty-three yard gain that allowed them to run the clock out and seal the victory.
“Our offensive line did great tonight,” Noah Baker said after the game. “Opening the defense with many gaps. They executed their blocks, and left me with wide open holes. As a team, this win means a lot. Coming out and getting this first win brings a lot of intensity going into the second game.”
The second game for the Warriors will come on the road at 7 p.m. next Thursday night at French field against the Kentwood Conquerors. Edmonds-Woodway’s next home game will be against Woodinville on Friday, Sept. 15 at Edmonds Stadium at 8 p.m.
–By Scott Williams