Tacoma Dome, here come the Wildcats!

November 19, 2012

By Michele Mihalovich

The moment the final whistle blew at the Mount Si High School football game Nov. 17, a crazy celebration ensued.

Fans in the stands chanted “Tacoma Dome! Tacoma Dome!”

Players dumped Gatorade on coach Charlie Kinnune, who was already soaked from the fourth-quarter rains.

Lineman Stephen Nnabue ran across the field, hugged tightend Griffin McLain and screamed, “We’re goin’ to the dome, baby!”

Friday night’s 38-7 win against Kennedy Catholic was more than just Mount Si’s eleventh win of the season. This win guaranteed the Wildcats a seat at the WIAA’s state semifinals in Tacoma. That has never happened in Kinnune’s 21 seasons of coaching Wildcats. It’s never even happened in the school district’s 67 years of existence.

This year’s record-breaking Wildcats will go down as the best football team in Wildcat history.

“That’s just crazy, being the best football team in Mount Si history,” said McLain. “But getting to the Dome, that’s been our goal this entire season.”

The only obstacle to a Tacoma trip was losing to Kennedy, but many didn’t see that as a problem. The two faced off in the season opener Aug. 31, when Mount Si wracked up its first of four shutout games this season.

But for Kennedy, that game marked the only loss this season and Friday’s game at Mount Si could provide them some redemption.

It was not to be. Just one minute into the game, Wildcat Tyler Button intercepted Lancer quarterback Conner Richardson’s pass.

Junior quarterback Nick Mitchell made quick work of getting the ball down the field, and finished up with a 26-yard pass to junior Trevor Daniels for Mount Si’s first TD of the night.

Cameron Van Winkle missed the extra point, for a 6-0 Mount Si lead.

Wildcat defensive back Trent Riley recovered a Lancer fumbled ball, and set Mount Si up 40 yards from the end zone.

The following nine-play drive put Mount Si at fourth and goal just two yards shy, and the Wildcats decided to go for it, with Mitchell sprinting in for a touchdown. He then ran in a two-point conversion for a 14-0 score in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Lancers seemed to have gotten some momentum going. A four-play drive got the ball into a receiver’s hands. As he carried the ball, it dropped out of his hands, bounced on the field and he recovered it like a basketball player. A few plays later, Lancer Drew Thompson ran 10 yards for their first and only touchdown of the night.

Button finished up the quarter with an eight-yard pass from Mitchell, putting Mount Si up 21-7 at the half.

Within the first three minutes of the third quarter, Mitchell tossed a seven-yarder to McLain for another Mount Si touchdown.

Lancer quarterback fumbled a handoff, which Wildcat Hank Van Liew recovered and set Mount Si up midfield.

The offense had a slow drive to the 25-yard-line, setting it up for a Van Winkle field goal, which was missed due to some Lancer contact that left the University of Washington-bound kicker limping off the field.

In the fourth quarter, Wildcat Beau Shain, a league leader in interceptions, almost picked off a Lancer pass.

Moments later, however, the ball slipped out of Lancer kicker Colin Cossette’s hands just as he was setting up for a punt return. Shain redeemed himself with the recovery, and Jimbo Davis picked a five-yard Mitchell pass for a touchdown, bring the score to 35-7.

Van Winkle also got to redeem himself from the earlier missed field goal by kicking in a 45-yarder with just 53 seconds left in the game, ending the night with a 38-7 win and a guaranteed trip to the Tacoma Dome.

Now for the bad news.

Mount Si will face the only team that beat them this season, the dreaded Bellevue Wolverines.

Sports Illustrated ranks Bellevue as the second best high school football team in the nation, but McLain doesn’t see that as a huge obstacle.

The Wildcats faced them before and now have a pretty good idea of what to expect and how to possibly turn things around this time, he said.

“We were pretty tense the first time we played them,” McLain said. “But this time, we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”

Kinnune, a bit sticky from the Gatorade dousing, described this year’s Wildcats as a “phenomenal group of players.”

He said everyone is aware of how good Bellevue is.

“But these guys, they are happy just to be able to play a nationally ranked team in the state semifinals,” Kinnune said. “Playing in the dome, that’s been their dream all season.”

Mount Si is set to kick off at 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Tacoma Dome. If they beat Bellevue, they will advance to the Gridiron Classic the following weekend.

 

Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or editor@snovalleystar.com. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.

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