TUMWATER — Port Angeles couldn’t contain top-seeded Tumwater’s ability to spring the big play — something absolutely necessary when you are the No. 16 seed and seeking to pull off an upset of historic proportions against the six-time state champion Thunderbirds.
The Roughriders, making their first state tournament appearance since 2010, lost 70-12 Friday night at Sid Otton Field in the opening round of the Class 2A state football tournament.
Port Angeles has no reason to hang their heads. The 2023 Roughriders (7-4) will go down as one of the strongest teams fielded on the North Olympic Peninsula in the past decade talent wise — if not one of the more physically capable teams as well.
Speaking on the success of this year’s team, head coach Dustin Clark said, “We’re getting there. This year was a step in the right direction.”
The Riders looked up to the challenge on their opening drive, moving the ball down the field on Tumwater and setting up shop on the T-Birds 45-yard line after Parker Nickerson found Blake Sohlberg for a nice catch-and-run on third down.
But Nickerson would soon throw an interception and Tumwater made its first drive last all of one play as Kooper Clark zoomed 85 yards off the left side to open the scoring.
Port Angeles played hard against the T-Birds, standing up defensively to force two first-quarter turnover on downs inside Port Angeles’ 20-yard line.
But the Riders couldn’t stop the big play, allowing Jaylin Nixon to bust loose for a 45-yard score.
Tumwater followed with its first downfield drive, with Mathias Rodriguez scoring on a short run.
Clark added a 14-yard TD to go up 28-0.
Port Angeles got on the board when Nickerson found Hawes on a 53-yard catch-and-run with 4:11 left until halftime but the Riders’ extra point was blocked for a 28-6 deficit.
Port Angeles added its other score on the final play of the game as Nickerson lobbed a Hail Mary pass into the end zone and Kason Albaugh came up with the ball.
This was a senior-heavy team with Nickerson, Albaugh, Hawes, Tanner Flores, Landyn Jones and many others graduating.
Clark said the team’s coaches are already looking forward to working with next year’s squad. Returning is Sohlberg, Kaiden Point, Aiden Otis, Jordan Shumway and some other big contributors.
“We feel that where we’re at, the kids understand the work ethic that’s needed. The coaches are excited for next year.”
Sports editor Pierre LaBossiere contributed to this story.