Meadowdale picked the right time to snap its three-game losing streak.
With the season on the line and on the road against the top seed from the Narrows League, the Mavericks offense shined in the first half and then the defense withstood a furious Timberline rally, as Meadowdale prevailed 28-21 in a 3A District playoff football game Saturday at South Sound Stadium in Lacey.
The Mavericks (6-4 overall) will host Lakes (4-6) in a first round state playoff game at Edmonds Stadium on either Friday or Saturday.
“It wasn’t always pretty,” said first-year Meadowdale coach Mike Don. “In the playoffs, it’s survive and advance.”
The Mavericks offense, which had scored only two touchdowns in its last two games, had two in the first quarter, including an impressive drive to start the contest.
Junior running back Malik Braxton scored on a 1-yard run at the 7:49 mark and then following an interception, senior quarterback Jeremiah Evans threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to brother Josiah Evans.
It was important for the Meadowdale offense to have success early in the game, according to Don.
“We came out and set the tempo up front,” Don said. “We were able to establish the running game and we did a great job of running the football early in the game.”
The first drive was a boost for a struggling Meadowdale offense.
“It showed that we can drive on teams,” Jeremiah Evans said. “We haven’t really done that this year and we drove on a tough defense and it gave us confidence throughout the whole game.”
An interception, however, led to Timberline’s first touchdown of the game, an 11-yard pass from Gabe Gutierrez to Brennon Kaleiwahea midway through the second quarter.
Meadowdale regained the momentum with less than a minute left in the second quarter when Jeremiah Evans threw a 67-yard scoring strike to Josiah Evans and the Mavericks went into halftime ahead 21-7.
The defense came up big late in the fourth quarter after a punt pinned Timberline (6-4) back at its own 1. A hard hit from junior linebacker Charlie White forced Gutierrez to fumble the ball and White recovered in the end zone as Meadowdale upped its lead to 28-7 with 4:55 left in the contest.
The Blazers responded on their ensuing offensive possession when Gutierrez threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Trent Gallagher and the Blazers cut the lead to 28-14.
Timberline attempted an onside kick but Meadowdale recovered. The Mavericks were unable to move the ball and the Blazers regained possession.
Gutierrez then found Jonathan Dowell on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining in the game and the Blazers were within a touchdown of tying the game at 28-21.
It appeared Timberline might have the opportunity to do just that when the Blazers recovered the onside kick. But after conferring, the officials called catch interference on Timberline and awarded the ball to the Mavericks.
“If the ball is kicked in the air on a kickoff, you have to give the receiver the opportunity to catch the ball,” Don said. “They did not. Their kid jumped up and took it right away.”
It the kick had been on the ground and bounced in the air, the Blazers would have been able to recover it.
“Our kids came in really focused,” Don said. “We were intent on making our season continue. We really haven’t played well offensively the last few games and we came out tonight and played better early on. We’ve got to be able to finish a little bit better.”
Jeremiah Evans agreed.
“We had some big plays on offense but our offense needs to step it up for us to keep on going,” he said.
The Meadowdale defense was the difference in Saturday’s game.
“The defense played light’s out,” Don said. “Their ability to make big plays, create turnovers, get sacks and just make big plays constantly was amazing tonight.”
Junior running back Malik Braxton only played the first half of Saturday’s game. He was on the sidelines due to a leg injury during the second half. “We held him out, but he’ll be back next week,” Meadowdale coach Mike Don said. The Mavericks offense needs him, said quarterback Jeremiah Evans. “He brings a lot to our offense. He’s a very dynamic player,” Evans said.
— Story and photos by By David Pan/Lynnwood Today Editor