By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
FORKS — The walking wounded, aka the Neah Bay football team, overcame injuries that knocked out two starters early and an inspired, if not error-free, performance by Crescent to beat the Loggers 30-12 in a Quad-District playoff game Friday in Forks.
Up next for Neah Bay (5-5)is a second round Quad-District playoff game on the road next weekend against Naselle (7-2), the top team from Southwest District 4.
Crescent’s season ends at 6-5.
Already down multiple starters to season-ending injuries, the Red Devils lost linebacker Alan Tyler, their best run-stuffer according to coach Tony McCaulley, to a leg injury on the opening kickoff. Later in the first half, power running back Leroy Greene was lost to an ankle injury.
But Neah Bay persisted.
“I was real worried,” McCaulley said of the injuries. “We had to move even more guys around and the guys who came in played well. Guys like Dominick Wilson, Matt Reamer, Sebastian [Johnston-Vargas], our backups stepped up in a big way.”
The Red Devils’ rash of injuries have forced Neah Bay to adopt a next-man up mentality all season.
“We are a recovery team,” quarterback Josey Tyree said. Tyree, who started the season at wide receiver, returned Friday from a two-week absence due to a concussion.
“We’ve lost a lot of guys, but we know we have a lot of seniors leaving and we plan on going to state. So we have to keep working.”
Tyree’s return, and moving the team’s best blocker, senior Daniel Kilmer, to fullback had the Neah Bay offense back on track.
“Daniel is so big and I’m so small we can hang on to him through the holes and nobody wants to take him on,” Tyree said.
Isaiah Knaus rushed 21 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Red Devils, 100 of those yards and both of his scores coming in the second half, as Neah Bay pulled away after leading 16-12 at halftime.
Tyree added 64 rushing yards on 19 carries, threw a 16-yard TD pass to Levi Swan and returned a fumble 60 yards for a defensive score in his return.
After a scoreless opening quarter on a frigid night in Forks, the action heated up quickly in the second quarter.
Crescent struck first when senior quarterback KC Spencer found Noah Leonard in the flat for a 12-yard catch-and-run with 10:34 left until halftime.
The Loggers were moving the ball in Red Devils territory on their next drive when Leonard fumbled and Tyree gathered the ball and bobbed and weaved his way to the end zone.
Neah Bay then recovered the ensuing kickoff and Tyree found Swan for a score three plays later for a 16-6 lead.
With two turnovers in two plays, it was beginning to feel like the first time the Red Devils and Loggers met this season, when Neah Bay opened up a close 34-32 game and won 78-46 thanks to a bevy of second-half turnovers by Crescent.
But credit Crescent, the Loggers bore down and put together a seven-play, 61-yard drive, boosted by big runs by Leonard and Spencer and capped by a 1-yard TD run by Kyle Buchanan to pull within 16-12 with 2:29 to go until halftime.
Crescent then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and looked set to take a lead into the break.
Spencer tucked a beautiful pass into a tight space to Robert Cox on a Fourth-and-9 play from the Red Devils’ 33 and Cox took off down the sideline with the end zone beckoning. But Cox looked back to check for defenders and lost his grip on the ball at the 4-yard line and Neah Bay fell on the football.
The Loggers had the ball six times after halftime and couldn’t get untracked offensively.
Toby Croy’s sack of Spencer hampered Crescent’s best chance to get back in the game down 24-12, and Knaus sealed the win with his second 2-yard TD run with 8:55 to play.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and our 3-4 defense shut them down pretty good,” McCaulley said.
Crescent coach Brian Shimko said his team has improved every season since he took over in 2015.
“We are getting better and better each year — every game, really,” Shimko said.
“It [victory] was right there for us. But we had a couple of bad fumbles, a lot of jitters and pressure tonight. But the kids really played great except for the ball security mistakes.
Crescent was without one of its skilled playmakers in injured running back/defensive back Eric Emery.
Little brother Brayden Emery, an eighth-grader, stepped in and was solid defensively for the Loggers, a sign of things to come for a team that returns most of its skill players, but loses Spencer, the state’s all-time interceptions leader, Cox, Buchanan and a few others to graduation.
Neah Bay will go back to the drawing board for its next playoff game.
“We will have to change things around even more to find a good fit and see what happens,” McCaulley said of the Naselle game.
Neah Bay 30, Crescent 12
Crescent 0 12 0 0— 12
Neah Bay 0 16 8 6— 30
C—Leonard 12 pass from Spencer (pass failed)
NB—Tyree 60 fumble return (Greene run)
NB—Swan 18 pass from Tyree (Brunk pass from Tyree)
C—Buchanan 1 run (pass failed)
NB— Knaus 2 run (Knaus run)
NB— Knaus 2 run (pass failed)
Rushing—C: Leonard 13-69, Spencer 11-67, Buchanan 9-37, Cox 2-5. NB: Knaus 21-103, Tyree 19-64, Greene 8-25, Swan 1-6.
Passing—C: Spencer 5-20-56, INT. NB: Tyree 3-10-75, 2 TD, INT; Knaus 1-1-32.
Receiving—C: Cox 3-37, Leonard 1-12, Buchanan 1-7. NB: Swan 2-57, Tyree 1-32, Greene 1-18.