POULSBO — Cinderella isn’t done dancing yet.
One year after submitting their first 0-10 season in school history, the Port Angeles Roughriders are state-bound for the first time in 18 years.
Port Angeles weathered Sumner’s physical ground game amid a steady rain at North Kitsap Stadium on Saturday, beating the Spartans 28-21 on a last-minute touchdown run from quarterback Keenen Walker.
“This is awesome,” said Walker, who had a hand in all four Rider touchdowns. “At the beginning of year no one thought we were going to [got to state] and now we are.”
Port Angeles (9-1 overall) will go for the school’s first state playoff win when it takes on KingCo power Interlake (3-8) next week at a time and place to be announced.
The Saints upset South Puget Sound League champion Clover Park 54-35 on Saturday, their second Class 2A preliminary playoff win of the week.
“We’re just excited,” Port Angeles coach Tom Wahl said. “We’re looking forward to it and we’re looking forward to another week of practice.”
“I’m just so proud of the guys. They responded and they played well and they showed me some heart.
“They showed me that they want to play for another week at least.”
Port Angeles rebounded from a 41-0 loss to archrival Sequim a week ago with just the sort of physical, bend-but-don’t break effort that had it 8-0 to begin the season.
Despite surrendering 247 rushing yards on 57 carries to Sumner, the Rider defense came up big when it mattered the most.
That included six tackles for a loss when the scores was tied at 21 during the fourth quarter.
Of course, one of those wasn’t really a tackle, since it came on an inadvertent kneel down by punter/quarterback Aaron Clark at the Sumner 22-yard line with 3:19 left.
Port Angeles took advantage of the break, marching 17 yards in six plays for the game winning score on Walker’s 8-yard run on third-and-goal.
“It was a boot, but we knew we were going to run it,” said Walker, who also drew the Spartans offsides on a critical fourth-and-4 during the drive with a hard count.
“There were some great blocks and I just ran right into the end one untouched.
“Words can’t describe how I felt.”
Walker finished the game with 194 yards of total of offense, throwing for 97 yards and three touchdowns on 8-of-18 passing and running for another 97 on 17 carries.
Ian Ward added 36 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions and Cody Sullivan 47 total yards for the Riders, who had 257 yards to Sumner’s 308.
For a team that was out-gained by 322 just a week before by Sequim, the difference was a big improvement.
“The first few days of practice this week were kind of sluggish,” Walker said. “Then Thursday and Friday and half of Wednesday we started to pick it up real good, and it showed on the field [Saturday].”
Sumner had a pair of rushers go for more than 100 yards, with Cody Haavick (23 carries, 120 yards and one TD) and Tyler Salisbury (20-114) each breaking the century mark.
Yet when the Spartans needed those ground yards in the fourth quarter the Port Angeles defense stiffened, limiting Sumner to just four first downs on its last four drives.
“It was tough to read [Sumner’ run game] at first,” defensive lineman David Woods said. “But once we actually got going, we just played tough defense and hit as hard as we can.”
The Spartans’ ground-and-pound intentions were clear from the start.
Driving 89 yards on 17 plays, 15 of which were runs, Sumner marched methodically down the field on its first possession.
Clark muscled his way into the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal.
Port Angeles responded with scoring drives on three of its next four possessions in the second quarter, all capped by Walker touchdown passes.
The junior signal caller first dumped off a screen pass to Sullivan, who followed a convoy of blockers 19 yards into the end zone to answer Sumner’s score.
Walker intercepted Clark on the Spartans’ next drive, then found Ward in the back of the end zone eight plays later for an 8-yard scoring pass.
Clark hit Haavick for a 28-yard scoring pass on Sumner’s ensuing drive, but was intercepted a possession later by Rickie Porter.
Walker converted that into a touchdown again, hooking up with Ward on back-to-back plays for 28 yards during a six-play 56-yard drive. The last was a 10-yard touchdown pass for a 21-14 halftime lead.
“[Ward] was just running really good routes and our offensive line was giving me a lot of time,” said Walker, who completed 7 of 12 passes during the first half for 77 yards. “He flashed open and I just delivered the ball to him.”
Sumner tied the game at 21 on its second possession of the third quarter, going 70 yards on 10 straight run plays capped by a Haavick 6-yard run.
The team exchanged possessions five more times before the Rider defense overcame its own roughing-the-punter penalty to force another punt.
That’s when Clark accidently kneeled on the turf to field a low long snap at the Sumner 22.
Port Angeles took over on downs, and six plays later Walker scored his dramatic touchdown.
Sumner’s desperation drive ended on an incomplete pass at the horn, sending the Port Angeles sideline into a frenzy.
A week after the lowest of lows — a 41-point loss to their rivals — the Riders were riding high once again.
“It was really hard for all of us [after the Sequim loss], not just the players the coaches too,” Wahl said.
“We were all doubting ourselves some last week. It took us four days to finally snap out of it and finally get back on task as a team.
“They came back, they showed that tonight they came to play. They didn’t let down, and I’m really proud of them.”
Port Angeles 28, Sumner 21.
Sumner 7 7 7 0– 21
Port Angeles 0 21 0 7– 28
SU–Clark 1 run (DeVries kick)
PA–Sullivan 19 pass from Walker (kick no good)
PA–Ward 8 pass from Walker (Porter pass from Walker)
SU–Haavick 28 pass from Clark (DeVries kick)
PA–Ward 10 pass from Walker (Hansen kick)
SU–Haavick 6 run (DeVries kick)
PA–Walker 8 run (Hansen kick)
Rushing– PA: Walker 17-97, Sullivan 8-28, Sewell 4-26, Porter 2-9. SU: Haavick 23-120, Salisbury 20-114, Clark 14-13.
Passing–PA: Walker 8-18-0, 97. SU: Clark 5-16-2, 61.Receiving– PA: Ward 3-36, Wheeler 2-30, Porter 2-12, Sullivan 1-19. SU: Haavick 2-26, Abolins 2-25, Unlisted player 1-10.