TACOMA — Marcus King ran for 380 yards and six touchdowns, both 1B championship game records, as the Odessa Tigers won their second straight State championship, beating Naselle 80-26 Saturday.
Jimmy Strange ended an injury-riddled junior season on a high note for the Comets with touchdown runs of 26, 21 and 62 yards. Strange, the WIAA Athlete of the Week after a four-sack, one-touchdown game in the semifinal, had his biggest offensive performance of the season.
Strange’s first TD came with the Comets already trailing 40-0, though it was only Naselle’s fourth possession of the game.
Odessa answered each of the first two Comet touchdowns with touchdowns on onside kick returns to keep complete control of the game; first Clark and then Pilot Weishaar broke away from a thicket of Comets who were diving in pursuit of the ball.
The victory completed an utterly dominant season for the Tigers (13-0), who outscored opponents a mind-boggling 799-18 this season in first halves alone.
They kept in check a Comet offense that had too much speed for anyone else in the state. They prioritized stopping runs up the middle by quarterback Ethan Lindstrom.
Lindstrom, who usually broke tackles in one-on-one situations during a 30-touchdown season, found his path congested as Tiger defensive ends came crashing in. He finished with 36 yards on 16 carries.
“They were focused on not letting Ethan run up the middle. They wouldn’t let him do his fancy stuff; he had to run more between the tackles,” Comets coach Jeff Eaton said.
Defenders didn’t need to bite on his fake sweeps because they knew teammates had the edges contained.
“Because they’re so fast, they were in the backfield right away,” Eaton said. “They would blitz one guy to take that away.”
The Comets weren’t shut down. They had 11 first downs (to 23 for the Tigers) and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. But in eight-man football, a defense is happy with those numbers against an elite offense.
The up-tempo Tiger offense dominated with team speed, just the way the Comets (12-1) did against every other opponent. Josh Clark complemented King’s 19-carry, 380-yard performance with 15 carries for 162 yards, helped by linemen who quickly got to the second level and who kept Comet defenders from getting to the edge on option plays.
“They’re well-coached. They know who to block and where to go with their blocking every time,” Lindstrom said. “Their defense is fast, and they fly to the ball. You have to give [credit] to them.”
Clark ran 34-yards up the middle on the opening play. King broke a tackle in the backfield on a 16-yard touchdown run, then ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 just 26 seconds in.
Kicker Jett Nelson executed an onside kick, which bounced off Joey Strange back toward the kicking team, where Daeton Deife pounced on it for the Tigers. Odessa scored on a seven-play drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Clark.
Down 16-0, the Comets got the ball for the first time but turned it over on downs as the Tigers stopped everything they tried. The Odessa defensive line stuffed Fa’aoso Tutu’u on the opening play, meeting him before he could get a head of steam. On third-and-six, Lindstrom ran out of a spread formation, a play that almost always allows him to break loose. This time, defenders were there to meet him right away. On fourth-and-five, he faked it to Joey Strange, then ran straight into a wall.
Odessa came up with an almost immediate sack the first time Lindstrom dropped back to pass.
Then, when Naselle again spread the field for a Lindstrom run, he eluded an unblocked defensive end with a devastating move. But another defender was right there to bring him down, taking away what would probably have been a huge gain against any other opponent.
Odessa continued piling up touchdowns, including a 65-yarder by King, and led 40-0 just 13:35 into the game.
Naselle finally got on the board with a seven-play, 50-yard drive featuring power running by Fa’aoso Tutu’u and a 26-yard TD run by Jimmy Strange to cap it off, making it 40-6 with 6:00 to go in the half.
With 30 seconds to go in the half, King scored his fifth touchdown, already tying Tim Hunsaker’s (Almira-Coulee-Hartline, 1990) championship game record.
Jimmy Strange took on a bigger role as the game went on, finishing with 138 yards on 10 carries. He got out of a pile of defenders in the backfield for a 21-yard score on the Comets’ opening drive of the second half, making it 54-12.
Tutu’u, hitherto held in check, ran through tackles for a 62-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, finishing with 117 yards on 13 carries.
Though the Tigers were virtually unstoppable on two-point conversions, going eight for nine, they decided to send Nelson out for an extra point after King’s record-breaking sixth touchdown; Nelson made the kick for a 77-20 lead.
On his final carry, King went outside and cut sharply back in, escaping the defense. His 34-yard run padded his record yardage total, which bested a 342-yard game for Nick Koller of LaCross-Washtuncna in the 2002 title game. But King slid at the four-yard line to allow Nelson to kick a field goal; Nelson nailed it from 23 yards, his second of the year.
Odessa coach Jeff Nelson told the Seattle Times he arranged for the field goal simply because no team had ever kicked a field goal in the 1B title game. Because scoring is so high in eight-man football, field goals have little value and teams almost never try them.
With the game winding down, Tutu’u had a long touchdown called back for holding, but Jimmy Strange had a 62-yard score on the next play, his third of the game.
After the game, Eaton held the second-place trophy in front of his team and encouraged them to put the year in perspective.
“You were in the championship game,” he said. “Not many teams get to do that, not at Naselle or anywhere.”
REPORTER’S NOTE: The Tigers were one of two Odessa teams to be crowned state football champions Saturday. The Bulldogs of Odessa, Missouri beat Cassville 49-28 for the Missouri State Class 3 title.