LAKEWOOD — Experience pays in high school football, especially in the postseason.
Montesano, a perennial state playoff participant, showed Charles Wright what life is like after the regular season by striking quickly to secure a 31-21 state 1A first-round victory at Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
The Bulldogs scored four times in their first five drives of the game and never trailed against the Tarriers, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 1991.
“The first half, we played really fast,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “We were able to capitalize on drives. Our drives lasted less than two minutes and we were able to move the ball quickly.”
Montesano (9-2) will await the winner of today’s Hoquiam-King’s first-round matchup for next week’s state quarterfinals.
The key sequence of this contest came in the final minute of the first half and the first two minutes of the second half — a 14-point swing that allowed the Bulldogs the margin needed for victory.
Charles Wright (8-1) finally got onto the scoreboard after trailing 17-0 with a long drive paced by its first big play of the contest — a 35-yard fly sweep from Alexander Moore.
Raheem Hughey, running behind 6-foot-4, 321-pound center Robert Luke, ran in from 1-yard out for a touchdown with 57.6 seconds left for a 17-7 score.
It turned out Montesano would have plenty of time to answer before halftime.
In four plays, the Bulldogs rumbled 62 yards and scored on Tucker Ibabao’s 17-yard inside run for a 23-7 halftime lead. Matthew Jensen’s 18-yard seam pass to Elliot Mendenhall and runs by Ibabao and Mendenhall encapsulated the drive, with only one timeout used by Monte and liberal use of the sidelines.
Montesano received the second-half kickoff and, again, didn’t waste time.
Shad Rogers recovered an onside kick at midfield to begin the possession. One run each by Mendenhall and Rogers was followed by a 13-yard pitch-and-run from Matthew Jensen to Ben Ohashi.
Ibabao ended the 80-second drive with his third rushing and fourth overall touchdown of the game, an 18-yard sweep to the right pylon for a 31-7 score.
“I thought that was a great drive,” Coach Jensen said of the first-half ending drive. “Knowing we’d get the ball to start the second half, we went down and scored again. Two touchdowns — bam, bam — and it turned out we needed them both. That was a big drive. We thought they were playing a little bit of prevent defense, so we ran the ball and Matthew hit that big pass.”
“Offense was moving very fast; we’ve worked really hard in practice to keep up and maintain that tempo of the game,” said Ibabao, who finished with 81 yards rushing, one catch for 12 yards and four touchdowns overall.
“We were conditioned really well to do it,” Ibabao added. “The offensive line moved the line and I felt like we outran them. I just take advantage of every opportunity I get (with the ball). Outside, once we were able to establish a crease and get the corner, we outran them from there.”
The Tarriers had plenty left to get back into the contest, but took too much time to do so.
On its second scoring drive, Charles Wright took more than seven minutes of the third quarter before quarterback Fritz Jacobson hit Collin Hungate on a 19-yard touchdown pass at 31-13.
The teams traded turnovers — a fumble lost by Montesano and an Ohashi interception of Jacobson — before Charles Wright aired it out on a 57-yard drive. Hughey’s second touchdown of the game, a 2-yard plunge, would become the final touchdown of the contest.
Montesano’s defense stepped in and erased a short Bulldog drive that ended on downs at the Tarrier 21-yard line with 8 1/2 minutes remaining. Charles Wright’s final drive of the game ended like most of its drives in the first half — turned over on downs. Monte’s defense held on fourth down five times in the contest and erased the final five minutes of the game with inside runs and pivotal first downs.
Montesano’s offense set the tone and pace of the contest early, but got a big assist from its defense to start.
Charles Wright took the opening kickoff and drove to the Monte 30-yard line. However, the Bulldog defense forced the Tarriers backward and a turnover on downs at the 38-yard line.
The Bulldogs took the ball, ran eight plays in 2 1/2 minutes and waltzed into the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Jensen to Tucker Ibabao for a 7-0 lead.
Then, the Bulldogs did it again — a fourth-down stop inside their territory on defense and a big offensive drive, capped by a 34-yard Anthony Louthan field goal for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Jensen’s passing game, along with Ibabao’s and Elliot Mendenhall’s rushing, were dominant for Monte. Mendenhall and Ibabao displayed that on the next scoring drive.
Following Louthan’s field goal, Charles Wright muffed the squibbed kickoff and lost the fumble at its 20-yard line.
Two Mendenhall runs to the 9-yard line set up Ibabao’s second touchdown overall, a pitch-and-run for the score at 17-0 with 9:16 left in the half.
From there, it was a matter of time — or just enough of it — for Montesano to advance.