TACOMA — Almira Coulee Hartline had one of the most explosive offenses in the state coming into Friday’s Class 1B championship football game against Neah Bay.
The Warriors had scored 40 points or more in each of their first 13 victories.
But against an aggressive Neah Bay defense intent on containing quarterback Derek Isaak, they didn’t get their fourth touchdown until there were two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
As a result, the Warriors (13-1 overall) were dealt their first loss of the season, a humbling 36-28 defeat.
“They did a nice job of flowing to the outside and taking away our running lanes that we like to create,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said. “They were maybe quicker than we thought they were in that sense.
“They flew to the football real well and that eliminated some of our option run game.”
The focus of defensive coordinator T.J. Greene’s gameplan had been to keep Isaak from getting outside.
The defensive ends had to set the edges up field, and sophomore linebacker Cody Cummins was tasked with cleaning up the middle as the quarterback spy.
Outside of a couple of long touchdown runs, they did exactly that.
Isaak finished with 265 total yards of offense, but the run game was limited to just 123 yards on 16 carries. Anything to the outside was shut down with regularity.
“I was just watching his moves,” Cummins said of Isaak, “seeing if he was going to run left or right.
“It’s hard to read that kid, he’s a fast kid.
“Our D-ends did a good job of keeping him inside, and after they kept him inside that’s where I came in.”
Several others on defense made plays as well.
Defensive back Zeke Green came up with some pass defenses in the secondary, Michael Dulik had a key stop on fourth-and-short in the first half, and the special teams were almost flawless.
Isaak had just one long return on the game, a 27-yarder that set up the Warriors’ lone touchdown in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils were able to recover two onside kicks, one of their own and one from the Warriors late in the fourth quarter.
Mitchell McGee recovered the first and Leyton Doherty the last to all but seal the win.
Isaak’s two long touchdown throws also came under heavy pressure from the Red Devil defense, which refused to give up anything easy.
With the Neah Bay ground game controlling the ball offensively, that was more than enough to limit ACH to its lowest point total of the season.
“Cody Cummins was mirroring [Isaak], and he did an outstanding job,” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley said.
“He didn’t let him out but one or two times and made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage or within two yards.
“That was the difference in the game I believe, [Cummins] played outstanding for us.“I got to give it up for my defensive coordinator [T.J. Greene], he did a heck of a job, he had the right guys in the right spot, and it came out good for us.”