Red Devils’ first trip to the state semifinals
By Pierre LaBossier
Olympic Peninsula News Group
Wellpinit came into Saturday’s 1B football state quarterfinal with an impressive, even scary résumé.
Wellpinit entered the game 8-1, with the one loss to No. 1-ranked Odessa. And even in that game, Wellpinit scored 42 points against a team that barely allows any points.
Wellpinit also came in the game ranked No. 3 in the state in Ratings Percentage Index, higher than Neah Bay’s No. 4 ranking.
On a beautiful sunny day at Spartans Field with big contingents from both Neah Bay and Wellpinit in attendance, Neah Bay (9-0) simply ripped up and tossed away all those accolades as the Red Devils took care of business, crushing Wellpinit 66-14 to move on to the state 1B semifinals.
No. 2 seed Neah Bay will next race No. 3 seed Liberty Christian at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma. That game should also be livestreamed on the NFHS Network.
This is the Red Devils’ first trip to the state semifinals since Neah Bay won the 1B state championship in 2016.
Neah Bay head coach Kane Bachelor told his players after the game that they should not expect an easy win against Liberty Christian.
“We will get tested next week, it’s going to be a great football game,” he said.
“One more win and we’re in the show,” said offensive coordinator Tony McCaulley.
Neah Bay got 326 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns from Jodell Wimberley. He ran the ball 21 times for 265 yards. While Wimberley made lots of great cuts in the open field, he also had a lot of help from a picket line of blockers on several of his runs.
“He deserves it. He really works his tail off,” Bachelor said. He said that while Wimberley had a great game, it was also thanks in part to some solid blocking from big freshman fullback Tyler Swan and offensive linemen Kaeden Butterfield and Andre Greene. Neil Bowechop also had some big blocks for the Red Devils.
The Red Devils racked up 544 yards of total offense with Swan adding 110 yards and a touchdown on six carries, Charles Halttunen, another freshman, had 76 yards on three carries and Julian Carrick passed for 48 yards.
Just as importantly, the Red Devils kept Wellpinit quarterback Smokey Abrahamson in check. Wellpinit likes to throw the ball a lot for a 1B team with Abrahamson primarily targeting his 6-foot-2 receiver, Colin Hughes. Wellpinit ran the same play time and again, high passes to Hughes running sideline routes, with Hughes leaping up to try and get the ball.
Abrahamson connected on a few passes, including an 18-yard touchdown and a 48-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but not enough to seriously threaten the Red Devils. Defensive backs Wimberley and Julian Carrick were busy all game, repeatedly breaking up Abrahamson’s high-arcing passes and not letting Hughes or the other Wellpinit receivers run loose. Wimberley also had an interception.
“They came in ranked higher than we were. I told the boys this is our chance to make a statement,” Bachelor said.
“We just executed. Our blocking was great. Our tackling,” Wimberley said of the team’s strengths.
“We definitely looked to shut down their passing,” Carrick said.
“Pass defense is not our strength, but we worked on it all week. Our guys were not going to give up the big play over the top,” Bachelor said.
Wellpinit briefly had a chance to make a game of it late in the second quarter, but Wimberley made two spectacular plays within a minute of each other to put the contest away for good.
Behind three touchdown runs from Wimberley and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Carrick to Aiden Ellis, the Red Devils jumped out to a 26-0 lead late in the first half.
Wellpinit drove the ball down the field on a possession late in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-7 play, Abrahamson hit Andrew Moyer for an 18-yard touchdown with 1:06 left in the half, then converted the point-after attempt to make it 26-8.
Wellpinit attempted an onside kick to try and get another quick score before the end of the half, but Wimberley gobbled up the ball and sprinted down the sideline to shock Wellpinit with a 55-yard touchdown. After the PAT, it was 34-8 Neah Bay.
Then on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Wimberley scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a 60-yard run. After a Tyler Swan PAT, it was 42-8 and the game was essentially out of reach.
Swan also scored on a 40-yard run, while Halttunen had a 47-yard run for a touchdown, both in the second half. Ellis finished with two catches for 48 yards, including a 33-yarder that helped set up one of Wimberley’s touchdown runs. He also added a quarterback sack on a fourth-down play to create a turnover on downs. Carrick also had a short touchdown run.
Liberty Christian (10-0) is a private school based in Richland. The Patriots are ranked No. 6 in the state in RPI.