TACOMA — Much like last week against Wellpinit, the Neah Bay football team found itself in a game through much of the first half, going up against a team that loves to throw the ball all over the field.
And much like last week, Neah Bay blew the game open against Liberty Christian with huge plays at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, going on to win 82-24 in the 1B state semifinals.
The Red Devils outscored the Patriots 36-0 in the second half. The Patriots never seriously threatened to score the entire half.
Neah Bay will play in the state 1B championship game at the same stadium at Mount Tahoma High School at noon Saturday.
For the second straight week, the Red Devils will play a team with Liberty in its name. In a bit of an upset, Liberty Bell beat No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten Odessa 70-24 in the other semifinal. Liberty Bell is a 10-1 team out of Winthrop in the Methow Valley.
Meanwhile, the tandem of Julian Carrick and Jodell Wimberley combined for 453 yards rushing. The Red Devils tallied well over 500 yards of total offense on the day though they only attempted one pass.
Carrick and Wimberley also combined for three interceptions on defense, keeping the Patriots’ quarterback Keegan Bishop in check all day. Bishop came in to Saturday’s game with 46 touchdown passes and Liberty Christian came in to the game unbeaten, but by early in the third quarter, the game was all but over.
“Julian does a great job of taking the passing game away,” said coach Kane Bachelor. “I’d argue that he’s a better defensive player than offensive.”
Kaeden Butterfield was also a huge part of the Red Devils’ defensive effort. He didn’t generate a lot of stats but chased Bishop all over the field all during the second half, not allowing him to get comfortable and set up. Bachelor said Butterfield also opened up huge holes on the offensive line for Wimberley and Carrick.
“We built our game plan around Kaeden and Andre Greene,” Bachelor said. “In the second half, Kaeden took that game plan to another level. He was unleashed.”
Neah Bay controlled the game with its running game as usual. Wimberley ran the ball 28 times for 235 yards with three touchdown runs of 51, 9 and 2 yards. Carrick ran the ball 20 times for 218 yards with five touchdown runs of 52, 42, 14, 13, and 1 yards.
Carrick nearly had another touchdown, but early in the game he fumbled the ball at the goal line. The ball bounced out of bounds in the end zone in a bad break for the Red Devils.
Bishop had trouble throwing against Neah Bay’s defense early as he missed some open players and Wimberley had a first-quarter interception. But he got hot for a while late in the first quarter and through the second quarter, completing some big passes, including a 33-yarder to his main receiver Drew Ott.
Liberty Christian had simply no answer for the duo of Wimberley and Carrick, however, and the Red Devils were able to build up a 30-8 lead. Bishop responded by leading the Patriots on a long drive and capped it off with a short touchdown pass. With 2:48 left in the first half, the Patriots were down just 30-16 and still very much in the game.
The Red Devils were in a similar position in the quarterfinal against Wellpinit and scored 16 points in less than a minute to blow the game open. They did nearly the same against the Patriots.
Neil Bowechop had the longest play of the game, picking up a bouncing ball at the 9-yard line on the Patriots’ ensuing kickoff and sprinting down the sideline for a 91-yard kickoff return to make it 38-16.
Neah Bay then tried an onside kick and Carrick recovered. After a 39-yard run by Carrick and a 25-yard run by Wimberley, Carrick capped off the quick drive with a 13-yard run. After a point-after run, Neah Bay was up big again 46-16.
After Carrick’s TD, Liberty Christian responded with a 65-yard kickoff return with seconds left in the half as the two teams combined for four touchdowns in less than three minutes.
If that play gave the Patriots any momentum, it was quickly erased on Neah Bay’s second play from scrimmage at the beginning of the second half as Carrick immediately rumbled for 52 yards for a touchdown to make it 54-24. The play capped 24 Red Devils points in barely three minutes of play.
That play seemed to take the wind of out Liberty Christian’s sails, as the Patriots weren’t able to sustain any drives the rest of the game.
In the second half, the Red Devils figured out Bishop. Carrick and Wimberley each had interceptions and Butterfield was all over Bishop the entire half as the Patriots’ offensive line got worn down. Butterfield finished with one quarterback sack, but he had several QB pressures.
Charles Halttunen also had two touchdown runs and gained 56 yards rushing. The Red Devils totaled 540 yards of offense. Tyler Swan had three point-after scores, as did Carrick. Halttunnen and Mathias Greene also had two-point conversions.
While Odessa was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 all year, Bachelor said he wasn’t surprised by Liberty Bell’s win. He watched Liberty Bell beat Lummi in a game early this year.
“I wasn’t surprised they won. Ever since [the Lummi game], they’ve been in the corner of our eye,” he said.
Neah Bay 82, Liberty Christian 24
LC 8 16 0 0 — 24
NB 16 30 22 14 — 82
NB — Wimberley 2 run (Carrick run)
NB — Carrick 13 run (Swan run)
LC — Culver 9 pass from Bishop (Bishop run)
NB — Carrick 1 run (Carrick run)
NB — Halttunen 3 run (PAT failed)
LC — Bishop 2 run (Hayden pass from Bishop)
NB — Bowechop 91 kick return (Swan run)
NB — Carrick 14 run (Swan run)
LC — Branning 65 kick return (Ott pass from Bishop)
NB — Carrick 52 run (Halttunen run)
NB — Wimberley 9 run (PAT failed)
NB — Carrick 42 run (Bowechop pass form Carrick)
NB — Wimberley 51 run (PAT failed)
NB — Halttunen 8 run (M. Greene run)
Passing — NB: Carrick 0-1.
Rushing — NB: Wimberley 28-235; Carrick 20-218; Halttunen 10-56; Bowechop 2-15; Hottowe 3-14; M. Greene 1-2.
Receiving — NB: None