For the latest chapter in a season in which they’ve reveled in a rare underdog role, Montesano’s Bulldogs pulled off the biggest upset of all.
The Bulldogs rode a superlative defensive effort to stun top-ranked King’s, 17-7, in a state 1A football quarterfinal Saturday night at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
After losing two of its first three games, the unranked Bulldogs (10-2) have put together a nine-game winning streak — with the last two contests coming at the expense of unbeaten teams.
They’ll return to the Tacoma Dome for the second consecutive year when they’ll face Mount Baker in a state semifinal, probably next Saturday.
Montesano quarterback Matthew Jensen accounted for 154 all-purpose yards, turned in a stellar defensive performance at linebacker and even made a probable touchdown-saving tackle on a King’s kickoff return.
Tucker Ibabao broke a 37-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to help seal the outcome and senior Richard Smith came off the bench to provide a key pass reception and interception in the final quarter.
But whatever game balls are distributed after this contest should go to the Montesano defensive unit.
Pressured by Monte’s pass rush in the first half and picked off twice in the final two quarters, record-setting King’s quarterback Billy Green completed only 8 of 30 throws. Not nearly as sharp as in last week’s first-round victory over Hoquiam and possibly bothered by a steady downpour in the first half, the Brigham Young University recruit did amass 132 yards, but 98 of those came on two completions.
“Hats off to (defensive coordinator) Brian Hollatz,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “He had a great game plan: Be multiple in coverage and make it look the same. That was a great team we beat, I think they were confused. I couldn’t be be more proud of the kids.”
“We knew they had an extremely potent offense, but Coach Hollatz came up with a great game plan and it was up to the players to execute it,” Matthew Jensen added. “(The coaches) told us that we needed to believe — believe in the game plan, the coaches and the fellow players— and the result was what it is.”
Jensen’s 3-yard touchdown run and Anthony Louthan’s conversion kick in the second quarter represented all the scoring until a pulsating sequence early in the final period.
Kenny Roy’s interception of a Green pass on the King’s 41-yard line late in the third quarter ignited a Monte drive that ended with Louthan’s 32-yard field goal that gave the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
On the first scrimmage play following the kickoff, Green found Alex Brouwer for a 61-yard gain down to the Bulldogs 7. Green ran it in from there and Ryan Fransen’s PAT cut the margin to three with an ample 11:31 remaining.
Montesano’s response, however, was immediate.
Inserted into the lineup after ace wide receiver Ben Ohashi was shaken up early in the fourth quarter, Smith hauled in a Jensen sideline pass for for 30-yard gain on the second play after the kickoff.
Three plays later, Ibabao broke off the right side and was off to the races on a 37-yard scoring run. Louthan tacked on the conversion.
The Montesano defense still had some work to do with 9:28 on the clock. But the Knights lost the ball on downs on Monte’s 29 on their next possession and Smith picked off Green on the Bulldog 23 with 4:49 remaining.
With Elliot Mendenhall running for one first down, the Dogs consumed nearly three minutes on their next possession. When Green’s fourth-down pass from the Montesano 47 fell incomplete with 32 seconds left, the Bulldog celebration began in earnest.
The Bulldogs had a significant advantage in field position during a soggy first half in which Green completed only 1 of 5 passes for minus 1 yard.
While stymied by a couple of dropped passes that could have gone for big yardage, the Bulldogs cashed in midway through the second quarter.
Although virtually mugged by a Knight defender (a pass interference penalty was called and declined), Ohashi somehow hauled in a 35-yard Jensen pass at the King’s 12.
Three plays later, Jensen kept the ball on a dive option and burst into the end zone from 3 yards out with 4:39 remaining in the first half.
A muffed punt recovered by Brian Hughes gave King’s its only legitimate scoring threat of the half.
The Knights reached the Montesano 6-yard line line in the final minute, but freshman Hutton Napier nailed Ben Welch for a 4-yard loss on third down and Green’s fourth-down pass into the end zone sailed wide of the mark.
Ibabao led Montesano ball-carriers with 85 yards rushing.
Ohashi was examined for a possible concussion after bumping his head while being ridden to the artificial turf on the play preceding Louthan’s field goal. He was cleared to return to action, Coach Jensen reported, but was held out as a precautionary measure.
Bulldogs 17, Knights 7
KING 0 0 0 7 — 7 MONTE 0 7 0 1 0 — 17
First Downs 10 12
Net Rushing 128 173
Net Passing 132 100
Total Net Yardage 261 273
Passing 8-30 7-15
Had Intercepted 2 0
Fumbles Lost 0 2
Yards Penalized 47 20