JOYCE — Ferocious pass rushing from Fa’aoso Tutu’u and Ethan Lindstrom’s elusive running proved too much for Crescent, as Naselle took a 50-8 halftime lead and beat the Loggers 56-14 Saturday, Oct. 12.

Crescent (3-3) had a close loss to highly-regarded Quilcene on its resume and was a playoff team last season. They moved the ball against Naselle (6-0), but could not keep Tutu’u away from quarterback Eric Emery. With the help of that pressure, the Comets came up with three interceptions. The Loggers, relying on strings of small gains, also could not keep up with the Comets’ big-play offense. Lindstrom had five first-half runs of 20 yards or longer to fuel the Comets’ offense.

Lindstrom kept the ball on an option play and ran down the sideline for 71 yards on the second play of the game.

“We think he’s gained a step of speed since last year,” coach Jeff Eaton said of Lindstrom. “Once he gets out in the open field, teams aren’t catching him.”

After a Crescent fumble, Tutu’u took a handoff, ran up the middle and bounced to the outside for a 33-yard gain, setting up an eight-yard touchdown catch for Jason Harman that made it 16-0 after 4:07.

The Comets used different looks to set up runs for Lindstrom. While his opening TD run came on an option play, on other Lindstrom run plays Naselle spread the field with receivers. That left few defenders in the middle of the field to contain his shifty moves. On Naselle’s third touchdown drive, Lindstrom had key gains on such plays, picking up a fourth-and-five and adding a 28-yard run on second-and-20 to set up Joey Strange’s one-yard TD run.

The development of the Comets’ passing game since the beginning of the year is what enabled them to credibly spread the field. They continued to show offensive balance Saturday. Lindstrom followed a 33-yard run with a long pass to Caleb Haataia, who caught it and fumbled but had it recovered by his brother Chase at the nine-yard line. Three plays later, Strange scored from four yards out on an option pitch to make it 30-8. Just before halftime, Lindstrom led a 72-yard drive in 1:13. Lindstrom followed a 22-yard run with a deep pass to a tightly-covered Warren Wirkkala, who came down with the jump ball at the 10 for a 30-yard gain. That set up a short touchdown pass to Corey Gregory, making it 50-8.

Defense helps Comets pile on

The TD to Gregory capped a three-touchdown scoring spree in the final minutes of the half that was fueled by Tutu’s pass rush, a pair of interceptions, and a special teams mistake by Crescent.

The Comets took over on downs at the Crescent 27 with 2:20 left in the half, and Lindstrom ran it in two plays later to make it 36-8.

On the ensuing kickoff, Crescent’s returner hesitated about whether to bring it out of the end zone, and took a knee without realizing he had brought it out to the one-yard line. Two plays later, Tutu’u got quick pressure on Emery, forcing him to get rid of the ball to avoid a safety. Jason Harman grabbed the errant pass and returned it for a touchdown.

On the next play, Emery threw deep, but Daniel Holt came up with an interception. An excessive celebration call forced the Comets to start from their own 28 with 1:17, but Lindstrom hurried them downfield, with the help of Wirkkala’s big catch.

The Comets’ 50-8 lead meant a running clock throughout the second half, speeding the game. But Tutu’u had time to create another turnover. He again got to Emery quickly, forcing a hurried pass that Kolten Lindstrom intercepted.

Tutu’u, in his second game of his return from an ankle injury, overwhelmed Crescent blockers, especially on passing plays.

“He was healthy for the first time in a long time,” coach Jeff Eaton said. “He was back last week, but he wasn’t fully healthy. There’s not too many teams that are going to be able to handle him.”

Wirkkala took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Chase Haataia.

Naselle will host Darrington for the homecoming game Friday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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