BELLEVUE - The Naselle Comets turned their journey to Bellevue's Interlake High School into a short return trip home when the Comets jumped all over the Seattle Lutheran Saints 42-7 in their first round 2B state football playoff game Saturday. The Comets took a 14-0 first quarter advantage and added 20 more in the second quarter for a 34-0 half-time lead. NHS never looked back as subs took over for much of the second half action and the Comets improved their overall season record to 9-1.
The Saints, who end their season 7-4, had a high-scoring offense - averaging 37 points-per-game this year. They also had only given up an average 20 points-per-game. The Comets averaged 30 points per game, while giving up an average of just 12 a game. So this game penciled out as being a battle between two high scoring offenses. So much for the pre-game calculations.
It didn't take long for the Comets to take control of the game Saturday. Riding on the cleats of senior quarterback Kyle Burkhalter, who was to eventually score four running touchdowns, the Comets moved the ball down the field practically every time they had the ball. They stopped the Saints first offensive try and then ground out the yards for their first score. Burkhalter ran in the final 35 yards for the TD on a fourth down play, the PAT kick attempt was not good, and the Comets had the early 6-0 lead.
The Naselle defense took the wings off the Saints wing-T offense and the Comets defenders didn't allow the Saints much wiggle room. On Naselle's second drive, Nick Hines ran in for the 22-yard TD, Burkhalter ran in for the two extra points, and the Comets led 14-0 after one quarter of play.
The second period was a repeat of the first as Burkhalter added TDs of 21 yards and 6 yards and Tony Fletcher ran in a 5-yard score. The PAT try was only good after the third score on a Burkhalter run and with the Comets defense shutting down the Saints, Naselle went in at the half leading 34-0.
With Naselle reserve defensive players getting increased playing time, the Saints were able to score their only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. Ryan Morgan ran in 18 yards for the score, the PAT kick was good and the Saints were on the scoreboard.
Burkhalter added his fourth TD of the game on a 60-yard run on the first play after the Saints' kick-off, to give the Comets a 35 point lead. The Naselle coaches went to their bench players for even more of their team to finish the game. With the win, the Comets are one of the final eight in the playoffs with their 42-7 victory.
Burkhalter led the Naselle offense with his four running TDs earned on 164 rushing yards in nine carries. He also completed 7-of-14 passes for 77 yards. Nick Hines added 97 yards in eight carrie and Fletcher had 72 yards in 10 tries. The Comets rang up 453 yards of total offense in dominating the Saints who gained 257 yards.
Naselle coach Jeff Eaton gave the offensive line much of the credit for the success of their ground attack.
"Our O-line and fullback Alan Erickson did a great job of blocking, especially when Kyle was running the option. Three of Kyle's four touchdowns came on the option where he just kept the ball and ran. He was running as well as he has run at any time. Their defense was keying on Tony (Fletcher) so that opened up some things for our other runners and helped Kyle and Nick pick up some good yards on some of their runs."
Eaton said that the Comets had several defensive standouts as the Clyde Glick-coached defense held the Saints firmly in control. The defense was led by Jason Gradt with 10 tackles, one for a loss, and a partly blocked punt; Mike Shirley with 10 stops; Austin Burkhalter was in on eight tackles; Colton Gilbert seven stops and a blocked punt; Erickson had three tackles that resulted in lost yardage; Nick Hines and Fletcher each had tackles for losses and Kyle Burkhalter and Leonel Mendoza each intercepted a pass.
Eaton also praised the Naselle rooting section who "had more rooters there then the Saints had. Sue Glick made a large bunch of 'terrible rowels'that the rooters waved. Those waving yellow towels gave the guys quite a lift as they could see and hear the support that they were getting," Eaton concluded.