PREP FOOTBALL: How Neah Bay returned to state championship glory
David Willoughby/for Peninsula Daily News
Neah Bay lineman Carl Mack (39) and teammates Mitchell McGee (21), Tyus McGee (1), Tyler McCaulley (32), Bill Hanson, top, Ezekiel Greene (26) and Grayson Porter (18) show off the state championship trophy after the Red Devils beat Touchet 36-18 at the Tacoma Dome.
David Willoughby/for Peninsula Daily News
Neah Bay’s Cody Cummins (22) runs through the defense of Touchet’s Elias Martinez for a touchdown.
David Willoughby/for Peninsula Daily New
Neah Bay’s Josiah Greene (2) breaks up a pass intended for Elias Martinez in the end zone on fourth down to force a turnover.
By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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Neah Bay championship a complete team effortBy Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
TACOMA — The state-champion Neah Bay football team follows the credo that nobody is above the team.
“Not the coach, not any players,” Red Devils head coach Tony McCaulley said after Friday's win over Touchet at the Tacoma Dome.
“And that's how we live our life in our locker room, and it shows out here on things like this [state championship].”
Part of that philosophy is that everybody plays an important role for the state champions.
At halftime of Neah Bay's state championship win over Touchet, Red Devils head coach Tony McCaulley got a tip from above.
Volunteer coaches Eric Johnson Sr. and Eric Johnson Jr., who watched the game from the press box, noticed the Indians were focused on defending fullback Tyler McCaulley.
So Neah Bay used the younger McCaulley as a decoy.
This opened up space for running back Cody Cummins as well as bootleg runs for quarterback Josiah Greene.
Leading 14-12 at the intermission, the Red Devils opened the second half with a 12-play drive — all 12 plays were runs by either Greene or Cummins — that took up over six minutes and concluded with a 3-yard touchdown run by Cummins.
“It work pretty good,” Tony McCaulley said.
“That first drive in, we got up a score and then we felt comfortable to where we figured we could run it right at them. If they stopped us, they stopped us, but we'd run enough clock.”
For Neah Bay to win its second class 1B state championship in three years required a complete team effort from players and, as the halftime adjustments in Friday's game showed, coaches.
Greene was the 1B state player of the year as a sophomore and the All-Peninsula MVP last year.
Cummins and Collin Haupt rack up yards and touchdowns behind the blocking of Tyler McCaulley.
When Greene needed to drop back to pass, he had reliable targets such as Ezekiel Greene and John Reamer.
All that offense happened behind offensive linemen Carl Mack, Bill Hanson and Mitchell McGee.
And that's just the offense.
Freshmen corners Cole Svec and Cameron Buzzell have been solid all season, and Bobby Long was in on a lot defensive stops.
On special teams, Josh Monette is the first player down on nearly every Neah Bay kickoff, and rarely does the returner make it past him.
“Everybody contributes. We teach that, and we preach that,” Tony McCaulley said.
“We preach trust in one another, everybody playing every down.”
If there was a theme to Neah Bay's 12-0 run to the state championship, other than dominance, it has been that injuries were merely an opportunity for someone else to join in the dominance.
Elisha Winck filled in when injuries forced Tyler McCaulley to miss most of the regular season.
And when Mack missed the second half of the championship game with an injury, Winck stepped in and Neah Bay didn't miss a beat.
When Cummins went to the sidelines in Friday's game to deal with injuries, freshman Cole Svec kept the power-run game moving.
When Tyler McCaulley was helped off the field with an ankle injury (he would return a few plays later), Cummins re-entered the game as the fullback and blocked for Svec on a 44-yard run.
Tony McCaulley said the contributors aren't limited to those on the field or in the press box. It takes a village to raise a state championship team.
“You know, it takes more than one coach, or one player to make this all happen. I think it's all those guys,” McCaulley said.
“And the community is outstanding.
“It has nothing to do with what I do. It's what the kids do and what all of us do together.”
Not sore hamstrings or banged-up knees.
Not the Touchet Indians.
And certainly not a 12-0 deficit.
Touchet grabbed an early lead by scoring touchdowns on its first two drives, but Neah Bay put up 36 straight points to beat the Indians 36-18 and claim the 1B football state championship at the Tacoma Dome.
“We had to win,” Red Devils quarterback Josiah Greene said after Friday's game .
“It was our senior year, we just had to come in here and win.”
The championship trophy is the second Neah Bay has earned in three years, and one the Red Devils could appreciate after falling to Liberty Christian on a last-second touchdown in 2012.
“I missed this feeling a lot,” junior John Reamer said.
“We just wanted to get that gold ball back to Neah Bay.”
When Touchet built that 12-0 lead on first-quarter touchdown passes by Elias Martinez, the Red Devils stuck to their game plan.
They didn't make major adjustments, and they didn't panic.
Besides, it isn't a new scenario for Neah Bay, which trailed both Cusick and Lummi 14-0 in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
“We just get real mad,” senior Ezekiel Greene said of the change that happens after the Red Devils spot a team a couple of touchdowns.
“And then we know we have a lot of time on the clock, and it's 8-man [football], anything can happen.”
But this wasn't a typical anything-can-happen comeback. There were no passes over the top of the defense or misdirection plays.
The Red Devils instead doled out a heavy dose of Josiah Greene and Cody Cummins grinding out yards with runs up the middle that was elixir for Neah Bay and poison for Touchet.
“Touchet played really good. I was expecting that; I was expecting it to be a tough game,” Red Devils coach Tony McCaulley said.
“We pretty much did what we wanted offensively. We used the clock and ran the ball, and were successful doing that.
“Our defense struggled in the beginning, like usual, but I was happy — I was happy with the outcome.”
Although the Indians struggled to stop Neah Bay, the Red Devils still faced adversity.
Cummins and blocking fullback Tyler McCaulley, who came into the game already nursing a hamstring injury — were in and out of the game during the second half due to injuries, and offensive lineman Carl Mack hurt his knee on the last play of the first half and didn't return.
Oh, and Josiah Greene was playing his third straight game with a hurt hamstring — an injury slowed him, yes, but didn't stop him.
“He played really well with a bad hamstring,” Tony McCaulley said.
“He's a very, very tough individual. Both him and Tyler McCaulley had some really bad injuries that they struggled through in the last few playoff games.”
Josiah Greene ran for 149 yards on 19 carries and scored one touchdown.
His 32-yard kick return set up Neah Bay near midfield on its first scoring drive (which he finished off with a 15-yard touchdown run) and a 45-yard return did likewise on the opening drive of the second half.
He also broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down to help the Red Devils preserve their 14-12 lead with five minutes to play in the second quarter.
Josiah Greene said the championship game was too important for him to be watching from the sidelines.
“I didn't question if I would play,” he said
“If I had to, I'd just hand the ball off every play and throw it a couple of times.
“I just wanted to play and make sure our team wins.”
Cummins, hampered by injuries all season, had another big playoff game, running 24 times for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
He was inspired to keep returning to the game by the support of the Neah Bay community, many of which attended Friday's game, and the tight bond shared by the Red Devils players.
“They were a physical team, and they liked to hit,” Cummins said of the Indians.
“But, with a crowd like this, you can't give up on anybody.
“And when you're family like that, you can't give up, no matter what.”
The Red Devils averaged 7.6 yards per carry and racked up 409 yards rushing.
Touchet scored on a 2-yard pass from Martinez to Colton Goble on the last play of the game to decrease the final deficit to 36-18.
In 2012, a last-second 2-yard touchdown by Liberty Christian's John Lesser on the same end of the Tacoma Dome field shattered Neah Bay's championship hopes.
This year, Neah Bay's state championship had already been wrapped up, so Goble's touchdown was meaningless as to the outcome of the game.
Which was exactly the plan. After falling short in 2012, the Red Devils worked even harder in the offseason, with their eyes sharply focused on redemption. And they wanted to leave no doubt.
“We had to dominate every team,” Josiah Greene said.
“That why everyone was working so hard all summer: We just wanted to dominate every team.”
And they did.
Touchet's 18 points is the least scored in a 1B title game since Almira-Coulee-Hartline held Odessa to 14 points in 2007.
The 18-point point differential is the smallest for Neah Bay this season, bettering the 32 points that separated Lummi and the Red Devils in last week's semifinal.
Winning every game by more than two touchdowns was a dominating end to a dominant stretch for Neah Bay's seniors, one that began more than a decade ago and ends with the school's second state championship.
“It's an awesome way to go out,” Tyler McCaulley said.
“We've been playing together since we were seven years old.”
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: December 07. 2013 7:29PM