WENATCHEE — Maguire Isaak went 11 for 11 for 391 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another five TDs in Almira-Coulee-Hartline’s 82-28 victory over Naselle at the State semifinals in Wenatchee on Saturday, Nov. 24. After both teams scored quickly on opening drives, deep touchdown passes of 53 and 69 yards launched the Warriors on a streak of 44 straight points.
“When I sent pressure, he found (receivers) quicker than the pressure could get there,” coach Jeff Eaton said. “Or he got away from it. … It’s hard for defenders to hold up in coverage for six or seven seconds.”
This was especially true given the speed of the Warriors receivers, whom they often sent sprinting on straight-line vertical routes. But it is Isaak that makes their offense special.
“What he does so well is he can run away from pressure. And he’s running toward the line, defensive backs stop, and start toward him. Their receivers got wide open several times that way. … When you see a quarterback has escaped, it’s hard not to come after him. And then sometimes, our guys stayed home and he took off.”
Early Comets touchdown
Isaak got outside the Comets defense for a 56-yard touchdown run on the game’s third play.
The Comets answered with a seven-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. Antonio Nolan carried four times for 24 yards and caught a 19-yard pass to help set up an eight-yard touchdown run by Fa’aoso Tutu’u.
Three plays later, Warriors star Hayden Loomis sprinted behind the defense, and Isaak hit him in stride for a 53-yard touchdown.
Naselle continued moving the ball but could not keep up with a Warrior team that scored almost immediately on most possessions.
Down 14-8, Naselle started inside Warrior territory after a Coulee onside kick failed. Nolan came open again, caught a Cole Dorman pass and cut back for extra yardage but was met by three defenders at about the 20, where a defender jarred the ball loose and the Warriors recovered the fumble.
Three plays later, Gage Burchill got open deep and caught a 69-yard pass. The two-point conversion made it 22-8.
Dorman’s deep ball to Jacob Eaton gained 49 yards on fourth-and-18, setting Naselle up at the four-yard line. But a Warrior corner broke up a fourth-and-goal pass to the end zone. Isaak went back to work, escaping a sack to complete a 23-yarder to Brayton Schafer. That launched a 91-yard touchdown drive to put ACH up 30-8.
“We went up and down the field,” Coach Eaton said. “We got the pass to Nolan and then they punched it out for a fumble. Then we had the big fourth-down play and got close but we couldn’t complete the pass. A couple of (plays) really (deflated us).”
In last year’s playoffs, the Warriors had overwhelmed Naselle on both sides of the ball, but this year was different on offense. The ACH pass rush was strong but not calamitous for Naselle.
“I think having Jimmy Strange and Daniel Holt in at guard has helped us. They move quicker, and they’re aggressive getting out on screen passes,” Eaton said.
Down 30-8, Dorman came out firing deep but was intercepted. Isaak followed with a 57-yard pass, then scrambled away from pressure, reversed field and scored from 21 yards out, putting the game out of reach midway through the second quarter at 38-8.
With 1:14 left in the half, Naselle got back on the board when Dorman found Nolan open deep for a 55-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 52-14.
In the second half, Nolan had a four-yard TD run, and Jimmy Strange added a 22-yard TD run. ACH continued lighting up the scoreboard with huge plays. The Warriors finished with nine plays of at least 40 yards.
Naselle finishes as a top-four team at the 1B level. In the other semifinal, Odessa beat Quilcene 65-6. Naselle lost only to Odessa in the regular season and the playoff game to Almira-Coulee-Hartline. This is the second straight year that both their losses were to the teams that ended up playing in State finals.
Season in perspective
After Saturday’s loss, Eaton gathered his players in a huddle and in his quiet manner reminded them they had made NHS history by reaching the semifinals.
“Up to this point you have set a perfect example, winning the last 10 in a row,” he said.
“Now we lose here. It’s a disappointment. We didn’t give them our best game, but the journey was fantastic.”
Assistant coaches Matt Scrabeck and Pete Riley commended their squad, saying their season memories should last their entire lives.
“You gave it everything you’ve got,” Scrabeck said.
For four seniors who had been with the program all four years of their high school career, Cole Dorman, Jacob Eaton, Vince Fauver and Josh Townsen, there were tears and hugs.
The fifth senior, Antonio Nolan, joined the program later and proved a key participant all season. He also earned the WIAA good sportsmanship medal.
“The journey to get here has been fantastic,” Eaton said. “We lost to Odessa when we were changing out our linemen, and then had a tougher league and all those games helped us to get here.
“Last week, beating Lyle-Wishram was the highlight. And these five seniors, four who have been with us all four years, were great for the program.”
— Patrick Webb contributed to this story.