Neah Bay runs
The Cusick Panthersâ€™ (8-3, 5-2) season came to an end on a frigid Friday night at Silverdale against the Neah Bay Red Devils (10-0, 5-0), 80-28.
The Panthers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but a bad couple of minutes early in the second quarter started a Neah Bay rally that didnâ€™t stop until the Red Devils had run into the B-8 semifinals.
Cusick head coach Sonny Finley knew his Panthers had run up against a buzz saw and an eight-man powerhouse.
â€śWe ran into a monster of a team,â€ť Finley said of Neah Bay. â€śThey are as good as advertised and I expect them to go on and win a state championship.â€ť
The Red Devils finished second in 2012 to the team that Cusick beat last week in the first round of the 1B playoffs.
Cusick started out well. Chris Reynolds scored the first points of the game on a 20-yard run, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead in the first minute of the game.
The Panthers continued to play well, holding Neah Bay scoreless for their first two possessions and then adding a second touchdown on an Alec Bluff throw to Eli Peterson. The two-point conversion was good and Cusick led 14-0 with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
For Finleyâ€™s Panthers, that was pretty much the high point of the evening.
In the closing seconds of the first quarter, things began to unravel a bit for Cusick. In just over two-minutes of clock time, the Red Devils turned that 14-0 deficit into a 22-14 lead. A 48-yard touchdown run by Cody Cummins on a fourth and four was followed by an interception of a Tyson Shanholtzer screen pass that was returned for a touchdown.
Less than a minute after that, Cusick had a bad snap on a punt that led to Shanholtzerâ€™s kick being blocked and recovered in the end zone by Neah Bay.
Just like that, the Red Devils had the lead and all the momentum.
â€śWe came out of the locker room fired up, but they were a really good, quality team,â€ť said coach Finley, who added, â€śThey capitalized on a few mistakes we made early on and then they really buckled down on defense.â€ť
Another Neah Bay touchdown made it 28-14, but Cusick kept fighting and with a minute left, Shanholtzer scored on a ten-yard run to cut the deficit to 28-22.
Big 3rd quarter
But this was the Red Devilsâ€™ night. Neah Bay immediately answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-22 at halftime. NB scored 32 more points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Late in the fourth quarter, Shanholtzer connected with Quinton Montgomery for a touchdown.
â€śThey exposed our lack of depth,â€ť Finley added. â€śWe had a couple of guys get banged up and we just couldnâ€™t come back like we did last week.â€ť
The Panthers had no reason to be disappointed this season. Coach Finley let his disappointed players know that.
â€śI told them that nobody expected them to be where we are now,â€ť he said. â€śWe went from a 1-2 start to qualifying for state--thatâ€™s a huge accomplishment for this group.â€ť
Next season already looks promising for the Panthers. CHS will return almost all of their receivers and backs. Shanholtzer will be back at the controls of a high-powered Cusick offense.
Finley is already looking forward to another solid season in 2014.
â€śItâ€™s always hard to say goodbye to seniors,â€ť Finley admitted. â€śWe missed out on a state title with this group, but weâ€™re going to patch things up and be right back at it next year.â€ť
CHS 14 6 0 6 --28
NBHS 6 28 32 14â€”80