NASELLE — The Comets beat Lummi 54-6 in a game that referees ended early after Comet running back Antonio Nolan took a shocking post-play, blindside shot that leveled him and had teammates and fans fearing the worst.
The hit on Nolan came as the teams were scuffling after a play. As the scrum appeared to be dying down, Nolan took a few steps backward, but at that moment a Lummi player sprinting full speed from the bench slammed into him. Nolan hit the ground and could not get up. He was carried off on a stretcher experiencing back pain, but able to move, then taken by ambulance to Astoria. Teammates and classmates followed. Their worst fears were nowhere near being realized; Nolan was discharged from the hospital that night.
Coach Jeff Eaton said Nolan will be out next week against Neah Bay with an apparent back muscle injury, but will likely be back for the playoffs.
“The most cowardly act I’ve ever seen in my over 30 years of coaching” was how Eaton described the targeting of Nolan. “Their player left the bench area and hit Antonio in the back from a 20-yard run.”
About the fight itself, Eaton said that “some pushing led to some punches being thrown.” Besides the player who targeted Nolan, another Lummi player was ejected for his role in initiating the melee. The referees also ended the game at that point, with seven minutes left, but ejections trigger an automatic suspension per WIAA rules.
The game itself was one-sided, with Naselle ahead 46-0 by halftime. Lummi’s offense combined a steady dose of runs with the occasional deep pass attempt, testing the Comets’ defensive backs, who were solid in coverage. But the Comets controlled the game with their medium-range passing attack, as Cole Dorman went 24 of 28 for 271 yards.
The Comets led 16-0 before Lummi got the ball. Dorman went five-for-five on the opening 53-yard drive, on his way to a 24-28 day. The Comets scored in under two minutes, going up 8-0 on Ethan Lindstrom’s nine-yard touchdown catch and Fa’aoso Tutu’u’s two-point conversion run. Jimmy Strange then recovered Ethan Lindstrom’s onside kick.
With Naselle facing fourth-and-one at the 11, Dorman kept the drive alive with a short run, bouncing off a tackler in the backfield, then diving and stretching forward to the nine. On third and goal from the two, Tutu’u, who also had a 23-yard run on the drive, plunged up the middle for the score, which was followed by Jacob Eaton’s two-point conversion catch.
Jack Ruch gave Naselle its second straight onside kick recovery, but the Comets quickly had to punt. Tutu’u pinned them at the three with a 51-yarder. That gave Lummi the ball for the first time 7:09 into the game. But under heavy pressure from the pass rush of Tutu’u and Vince Fauver, the Blackhawks got nowhere, and the Comets took over on downs inside the three. Nolan ran it in on the next play for the 22-0 lead with 3:19 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Ethan Lindstrom took a short pass, made a tackler miss, and spun past another into the end zone for a dazzling 13-yard score, putting the Comets up 30-0.
Tutu’u continued to have a big all-around game. He chased down a Lummi screen pass, covering ground in a hurry to tackle the receiver for no gain on fourth-and-14 to give Naselle the ball back yet again. Tutu’u excelled in all three phases of the game with eight carries for 82 yards, his big punt, and his defensive plays.
Jimmy Strange, like Tutu’u, was part of the Comets’ edge in team speed. His recovery of Lindstrom’s first onside kick came when he simply beat Lummi’s players to the ball. In the second quarter, on a Lummi shovel pass, he immediately tracked down the receiver from behind, shutting down the play for a gain of only one.
Naselle piled on with Eaton’s one-yard touchdown catch and Tutu’u’s 12-yard TD run to lead 46-0 at the half.
Caleb Revey connected with Jordan Jackson for a 40-yard touchdown early in the second half to put Lummi on the board. Strange’s 41-yard run shortly before the game-ending melee capped the scoring.
With the win, the Comets, 5-0 in Northwest League play, clinched the league title. They visit Neah Bay Friday at 6 p.m.