Eagles win thriller in final seconds

ELMA — After all their mistakes and Tenino big plays that came before, Elma’s Eagles still had enough resiliency to launch one last drive.

Steven Persell kicked an 18-yard field goal with 5.9 seconds remaining, capping a 60-yard drive in the final 1:16 that gave Elma a pulsating 36-35 win over Tenino in an Evergreen 1A League football opener Friday night at Davis Field.

Todd Swinhart amassed 295 all-purpose yards (173 rushing and 112 receiving) and scored all five touchdowns for Elma (1-0, 1-2). Senior quarterback Ryan Collin passed for 161 yards — going 5-for-7 for 76 yards on the winning drive.

The Eagles needed all of those heroics to overcome a Beaver team that had four scoring plays of more than 60 yards — and their own self-destructive tendencies in a contest in which both teams accumulated more than 400 yards of total offense. Elma was guilty of three fumbles (two on consecutive kickoff returns late in the first half) and several costly penalites.

Swinhart’s 20-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter cut Tenino’s lead to 35-33. But Swinhart’s apparent tying 2-point conversion run was nullified by a holding penalty and, following a defensive holding penalty that forced a third attempt, Collin’s run was stopped by Tenino standout Zack Chamberlain short of the goal.

When Swinhart’s fumble was recovered by Tenino’s Calvin Guzman on the Beaver 5-yard line with 3:18 remaining, it appeared that the Eagles had run out of chances.

Guzman ran for one first down but, with the Eagles using all three of their timeouts, the Beavers were eventually forced to punt. Elma took over on its own 35 with 1:16 on the clock.

Following Collin’s 11-yard pass to Kevin Farr and an offensive holding penalty, the Eagles were still on their 35 with less than a minute left.

Collin, however, found Swinhart on what Elma coach Jim Hill called a “sluggo” pass (essentially a down-and-in pattern) for 40 yards down to the Beaver 25-yard line. Hill said that play was called by assistant coach Bryan Schneider.

Another completion to Swinhart gave the Eagles another first down on the 10 and Collin then spiked the ball to kill the clock.

After Collin connected on another pass to the 4, Persell was summoned for the winning kick.

A Beaver offside penalty moved the ball marginally closer and Persell connected on what was a shorter version of an extra point.

Tenino had time for one final play after the kickoff, but Farr swatted away Guzman’s desperation pass.

“That was pretty fun, wasn’t it?” Hill said with a laugh. “That’s three games in a row (that were close). We’ve got to stop doing things that give us a chance to lose and start doing things that give us a chance to win.”

He credited the leadership of his seniors in general but Swinhart, Collin and Ricky Escalante, in particular, for enabling the Eagles to pull this one out.

Prior to his fourth-quarter TD run, Swinhart scored on runs of 1, 45 and 10 yards, and on a 16-yard pass from Collin.

Tenino’s Chamberlain rushed for 149 yards in the second half alone.

His 77-yard scoring burst late in the third quarter gave the Beavers a 35-27 lead.

Guzman and Thomas Pier each broke 63-yard scoring runs for the Beavers, while Guzman connected on a 65-yard TD pass to Brayden Hisaw on a play in which an Elma defender slipped and fell.

“One of those (scoring plays) was a mental mistake. The others were missed tackles at the line of scrimmage,” Hill said.

Swinhart’s 45-yard TD run on a sweep to the right at the 2:01 mark of the second quarter gave the the Eagles a 21-14 lead. But the complexion of the contest drastically changed in the closing moments of the first half.

Tenino quarterback Guzman motored 63 yards to the end zone on an option keeper on the first play following the ensuring kickoff.

After the PAT kick tied it, the Beavers recovered an Eagle fumble on a squibbed kickoff. They converted this opportunity as well, with Guzman hitting Zeb Chamberlain on a 10-yard scoring pass with 46 seconds left in the half.

Elma fumbled the next kickoff as well, but this time Tenino failed to score. That left the visitors with a 28-21 halftime advantage.

The Eagles went 67 yards in eight plays, with Swinhart going the final 10 on a tackle-breaking run with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter. Persell’s attempt for the tying PAT, however, hooked wide.

The Beavers responded with another one-play scoring possession, as Zack Chamberlain ripped off his 77-yard scoring jaunt for the aforementioned 35—27 lead.

Escalante, Manny Torres and Rio Ortega got in some good defensive licks for Elma.

The Eagles will make their last regular-season trip outside Grays Harbor County next Friday when they visit Rainier.