POULSBO — Red-eyed from holding back tears in the wake of previously unbeaten Quilcene’s 54-38 loss to Tacoma Baptist in the Class 1B Quad-District Playoffs, Rangers head football coach Trey Beathard made a simple but painful point as he addressed his players in the locker room at North Kitsap High School.
Namely, this was a contest his team certainly could have won, provided they had played a little bit sharper, been a little more explosive offensively and done more to curtail the Crusaders ability to move the ball after halftime.
The difference between the two squads wasn’t a wide chasm, more of a small gap. But Tacoma Baptist (8-2) made the leap and advanced to the 8-man football quarterfinals and a matchup with Lummi, leaving Quilcene (8-1) to rue what may have been.
“We just didn’t quite get after it like we should have,” Beathard said. “I know it sounds stupid, but sometimes there’s a fine line, one or two plays one way or the other that make a big difference.”
Indeed, two end-of-quarter lapses, one just before halftime, the other on the final play of the third quarter were devastating to the Rangers’ chances.
After a back-and-forth first quarter that saw Tacoma Baptist’s speedy playmaker P.J. Talen score on a 59-yard touchdown run and a 61-yard pass reception from Noah Tangen, Quilcene led 16-14 thanks to touchdown runs of 24 and 23 yards by Quilcene’s Andy Johnston and Eli Mahan.
The two teams decided to play defense for the first six minutes of the second quarter before Quilcene scored on a 3-yard run by Mahan and a 34-yard keeper by Johnston to go up 32-22 with 1:45 to play before halftime.
Tacoma Baptist started at midfield on the ensuing drive and looked content to run out the clock and receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
Facing fourth-and-12 from the Rangers’ 32, Talen sneaked out of the Crusaders’ backfield uncovered, caught a lofted pass from the lefty Tangen and sped for a touchdown with 9.3 seconds left in the half.
“I feel bad,” Beathard said. “I told coach Wilson at halftime that I should have called timeout. We lined up late and I regretted that to be honest with you.”
Tacoma Baptist used hard-running Logan Kitselman more in the second half, a weapon the Crusaders lacked in an earlier 66-26 loss to Quilcene. Kitselman scored on a 1-yard run on the opening series of the second half to give Tacoma Baptist its first lead, 36-32 with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
“That was a pretty good momentum swing, we didn’t stop them at the end of the half and didn’t stop them on the first drive of the second half,” Beathard said.
Kitselman finished with a team-high 25 carries for 147 yards.
“Kitselman was an all-league player last year and he is just more physical than many of the running backs we’ve faced,”Beathard said. “He’s also a good blocker as a back, he knocks over the first defender on a lot of their QB keepers, a good lead blocker.”
Two Quilcene turnovers both led to touchdowns for the Crusaders.
The Rangers went away from their power running attack on their first drive, switching to a shotgun formation. Low snaps plagued Quilcene, no more so than when Johnston, delayed by fielding a fumbled snap, lost crucial seconds on a deep pass play to Olin Reynolds and was intercepted. If Johnston had fielded the snap cleanly, it’s a play that may have gone for a Rangers touchdown. Instead, Tacoma Baptist marched 85 yards in 10 plays, scoring on the final play of the third quarter. Again, it looked like the Crusaders were content with running out the final seconds of the quarter, but lined up and caught Quilcene off-guard as Talen found Tangen for a 26-yard TD pass.
“I probably should have called timeout before they ran up to the line, but I was hoping they would run out the clock,” Beathard said.
Reynolds, who rushed 12 times for 164 yards for the Rangers, fumbled on Quilcene’s next offensive play.
Nine plays later, Tacoma Baptist scored on a 9-yard pass from Tangen to Talen for a 48-32 lead.
Quilcene answered, scoring on a 25-yard jet sweep by Reynolds, but the Rangers couldn’t convert on the two-point conversion to make it a one-score game and the Crusaders added an insurance touchdown when Talen found Lynn on a 23-yard catch-and-run TD.
Talen finished 7 of 13 for 141 yards and two TDs passing, caught three touchdowns for 102 yards and ran 17 times for 138 yards and two scores.
“We had a couple kids who weren’t able to play [all-league players Ben Bruner and Kristian Mack], and its a chain reaction at this level, other kids have to play more than normal without a sub and it makes it harder for them to perform,” Beathard said. “But I don’t want to make excuses, they made better adjustments and got after it in the second half. “We aren’t going to beat a team that is that explosive offensively if we score that little in the second half.”