NASELLE — Ethan Lindstrom had touchdowns of 62, 5, 24 and 33 yards on his first four carries, putting Naselle on the way to a 50-14 win over Neah Bay in a battle of top-5 teams.
Neah Bay, which came in ranked fifth in Washington 1B eight-man football by the Associated Press, was the first Comet opponent this year to move the ball consistently, but the fourth-ranked Comets’ big play ability proved to be the difference in the game.
Fa’aoso Tutu’u returned to the lineup from an ankle injury, and his unparalleled speed-power combination provided a much-needed boost. Blitzing from the linebacker spot on fourth down with Naselle up 6-0, Tutu’u got to quarterback Meric Soeneke instantly, bringing him down for a sack. He followed on the next play with a 54-yard run, taking an outside pitch, breaking a tackle with a cut back inside, and dragging a defender the last ten yards. That run got Naselle inside the 10 and set up Lindstrom’s second TD. Tutu’u added a 21-yard power run in the second half, pushing the pile and diving over a defender to punctuate the run.
Joe Strange also added a key defensive play. With Neah Bay facing second-down near midfield after Naselle’s four-and-out opening possession, Tobias Croy had a big hole with a chance at a long gain, possibly even a touchdown that would have given the Red Devils the early lead. But Strange ran to his right and made the open-field tackle, helping Naselle get the ball back on downs.
Lindstrom had his four touchdown runs, a leaping interception, and a 46-yard kickoff return, and stole a possession with a high bouncing kickoff that the Comets pounced on downfield—and that was just in the first half.
His first TD, of 62 yards, came on a broken play as Naselle’s offense was sputtering early. The Comets had already taken penalties for a false start and an illegal man downfield, and faced first-and-fifteen.
“It was supposed to be a short pass,” Lindstrom said. But he had trouble handling a bad snap, the play broke down and he had to improvise. Lindstrom hesitated, appeared to consider a pitch to Tutu’u on the outside, but found that room was opening up the middle and took off that way.
“I’ve got to admit, I kind of like bad snaps sometimes,” Lindstrom added.
On his third touchdown run, Lindstrom scrambled, broke two tackles, avoided being bumped out of bounds and went 24 yards. Lindstrom’s interception came on a screen pass that was sailing high, as he ran in from his linebacker, leapt and snatched the ball out of the air. Late in the first half, on second-and-17, he rolled out to pass, eluded a pass-rusher, then cut back to the middle for his fourth TD, a 33-yarder.
Still, the Red Devils were within 12 at 26-14 at halftime, by far the closest game for the Comets this year; and the Devils got the ball to start the second half.
Shortly after halftime, Gabe Gilbert recovered a fumble on a high snap to set Naselle up inside the 10 yard-line.
Three plays later, Lindstrom broke three tackles, then fumbled as he crossed the goal line, only for Daniel Holt to recover it in the end zone. Tutu’u’s two-point catch made it 34-14.
Warren Wirkkala blocked a punt for a safety late in the quarter.
Joey Strange scored the final two touchdowns for the Comets. The last came on a 33-yard catch-and-run; Lindstrom made the screen pass as Strange was beating the defense to the sideline, and Strange took it the rest of the way.
As of last week, Odessa, Almira/Coulee-Hartline and Entiat held the top three spots in the AP state rankings, ahead of Naselle and Neah Bay.
The Comets visit Crescent (3-2) Saturday, Oct. 12 at 3 p.m.