Mavs ‘break curse’ with win over Peninsula, sending team to first-ever state football semifinal

The “curse” is broken. For the first time in program history, the Meadowdale Mavericks have advanced to the state 3A football semifinals, thanks to a 34-29 victory over the Penisnsula Seahawks Friday night at Edmonds District Stadium.

“This win means everything,” said a Gatorade-drenched Maverick coach Matt Leonard. “This was for the players who have played here, to the coaches who have coached here. For the students, the fans, the city.”

As has been the Mavericks’ custom of late, the outcome wasn’t decided until near the end of the game, when a fourth-down pass by Peninsula’s quarterback Burke Griffin was knocked down by the Mavs’ Jayden Jackson with 44 seconds left.

With two minutes remaining and his team ahead by 5, and facing a fourth and two at the Seahawks 12, Leonard elected to go for it with hopes of putting the game out of reach. Quarterback Drew Tingstad was stopped just short of the line to gain, and the Hawks had two minutes to drive 90 yards for the win.

“I’m a gambler,” Leonard said. “I told the coaches if I had the chance I’d go for the throat. We didn’t get the first, but I had faith in the defense and they proved me right.”

Peninsula came into the game having yielded under 9 points a game on average. Meadowdale passed that total in the first quarter, and more than tripled it by the half. The Mavs, in fact, scored on all five of their first-half possessions.

“We hit them in the mouth early, got them off balance and in the second half they adjusted, ” said Leonard

On the opening drive, the Mavericks quickly drove down to the Peninsula 10. Kela Marshall highlighted the drive with a 44-yard run on the second play, but the Mavs drive stalled and Will Schaefer kicked a 27-yard field goal for the early lead. After the Mavs forced a three-and-out, Meadowdale moved down the field, but again were held to a 36- yard Schaefer field goal.

Peninsula looked ready to strike back, returning the kickoff into Mavs territory, but the defense forced a fumble and Marshall recovered it to put the ball back in Meadowdale’s hands. Tingstad quickly moved the Mavs 29 yards for the first touchdown of the game with Marshall’s hands being the recipient of a 14-yard pass. Meadowdale was up 20-0 and the first quarter wasn’t even finished.

“We wanted to get out fast, get a lead before they could adjust,” Leonard said. “It almost didn’t work, but it did.”

On the next possession, Peninsula finally got a first down, but the Mav defense stiffened, forcing a punt. From their own 20, Jashon Butler started with a 19-yard run and Tingstad completed the 12-play drive, running for 27 yards and passing for 34 yards. The drive climaxed with an 8-yard “jump” pass to Zack Plummer, putting the Mavs up 20.

The Seahawks offense came to life, going 57 yards on their next possession with Kenny Easton scoring on a six-yard run.

But Meadowdale’s first-half scoring was not complete. Taking over at their own 37 with a 5:13 left in the half, the Mavs usd every second of the clock, scoring on the last play of the half to take a 27-7 lead into the locker room. Tingstad was 5 for 5 on the 10-play drive that ended with a 15-yard pass to Plummer, their second hookup of the night. The clock was ticking down to zero and Tingstad said, “We didn’t have a play called so I decided I’d just throw it up to Zack and let him make a play and that’s exactly what he did.”

Added Plummer: “Drew did a phenomenal job of keeping the play alive and Drew found me and it was a dream come true, just like this game.”

Tingstad was nearly perfect in the first half, going 13 for 16 for 160 yards while adding another 20 yards of rushing. Plummer led the team with 10 catches on the night, eight in the first half. “There’s been no-catch games and three-touchdown games for me. I don’t care if I don’t even see the field, as long as we win,” Plummer said.

Meadowdale, who has come from behind in all their playoff wins, was ahead by 27-7 at the half. But the “cardiac kids,” as they refer to themselves, once again made it interesting.

Peninsula took the opening kickoff of the second half down to the Mav 32. Two plays later, Easton ran it in from 15 and the gap was 13. After the teams traded punts, the Mavs found themselves at mid-field facing a fourth and 1. Tingstad faked a hand-off and found last week’s hero, Haelin Roberts, on a pass over the middle and Roberts did the rest, scoring on a 49-yard pass play.

“The plan was to run, but he (Haelin) was looking at me ‘like hey, I’m open, ‘” said Tingstad. Said Roberts: “Drew and I have been playing together since we were 11 years old. It’s just something we have together.”

Following another kick return to the 49, the Hawks took just five plays to score, this time on a run by quarterback Burke Griffin. The Mavericks were unable to get a first down on their next possession, one that featured a fumble and two penalties and ended in a blocked kick that went out of the end zone for a safety.

Following a free kick, the Hawks moved 62 yards in seven plays for a score, with Cameron Lewis doing most of the damage on the ground including a three-yard touchdown run to make is 34-29. The two-point conversion failed and the Mavs had 10 minutes left to protect the lead.

Meadowdale thought it had extended the lead on the team’s next series, but a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jashon Butler was negated by a penalty and the Hawks took over on their own 25. The Mav defense got back in the swing of things, finally forcing the Hawks to punt.

Taking over with five minutes left in the game, and needing a couple of first downs to run out the clock, the Mavs got within one yard of their goal, being stopped on fourth down at the 10. Peninsula had two minutes to go 90 yards. The Hawks got to midfield quickly, but back-to-back defensive plays, first by Schaefer on third down and then Jackson on fourth, sealed the victory and sent the Mavericks into uncharted territory — the State 3A semifinals.

“I really wouldn’t have made that play without the defensive line tipping the ball,” said Jackson. “I’m just happy for the seniors.”

So the unlikely story of this year’s Maverick football team that lost its first game by 49 points continues next week at Memorial Stadium against the Fighting Irish of O’Dea. Teammates refer to it as “breaking the curse” that until now had prevented the team from moving past the state quarterfinals.

“First it was the Cubs, then Trump, now us,” said assistant coach Al Leonard to his team in the locker room.

“I just love these guys,” added Tingstad.

Peninsula 0 7 16 6 -29
Meadowdale 13 14 7 0 -34
1st quarter
M – 10:03 Will Schaefer 27 yard FG
M -4:30 Schaefer 36 yard FG
M-1:17 Keta Marshall 14 yard pass from Drew Tingstad) Schaefer kick
2nd quarter
M-7:08 Zach Plummer 8 yard pass from Tingstad (Schaefer kick)
P-5:18 Kenny Easton 6 yard pass from Burke Griffin (Danny Jackson kick)
M-0:00 Plummer 15 yard pass from Tingstad (Schaefer kick)
3rd quarter
P-Easton 15 yard run (Jackson kick
M-5:35 Roberts 49 yard pass from Tingstad (Schaefer kick)
P- 3:12 Griffin 1 yard run (Jackson kick)
P-1:24 Blocked punt for Safety
4th quarter
P- 10:38 Cameron Lewis 3 yard run (2 pt conversion failed)

— By Jeff Smarr

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