On the strength of solid performances by both of the Curleybear brothers, surging Taholah easily overcame its own mistakes en route to the state quarterfinals.
Justin Curleybear rushed for 247 yards and two touchdowns as the Chitwhins cruised past Quilcene, 52-16, in a state 1B qualifying football game Saturday afternoon at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
Winners of seven straight, the Chitwhins (7-3) will face Lummi in a state quarterfinal game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Stewart Field.
A senior running back, Justin Curleybear also caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from his younger brother, freshman quarterback Keanu Curleybear. Although Justin started the game at running back, he played some quarterback as well, and completed four of six pass attempts for 65 yards.
“Night in and night out, he’s Mr. Consistency. We can rely on him any time.” said Taholah head coach Donald Waugh. “He has had a beautiful season. Every team knows who he is, and they key in on him, and yet he’s still able to perform and do well. He’s a stellar kid.”
Keanu Curleybear passed for 146 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown. The freshman’s other two touchdown passes were to Cleve Jackson. Jackson racked up 78 yards from scrimmage in the game to go along with his two scores.
Justin Curleybear scored on runs of 44 and 83 yards, while his brother reached the end zone on a 22-yard run. Taholah led 22-0 at the half and broke it open with 30 points in the third quarter.
Although Taholah scored all 52 of its points before Quilcene managed to get on the board, the game could have been even more lopsided. The Chitwhins turned the ball over three times in Ranger territory (two fumbles and one interception). Taholah also had five touchdowns called back on penalties.
The only Chitwhin touchdown that did not involve either Justin or Keanu Curleybear was scored when Wade Purdy took a handoff, ran to the right, juked past a defender, and scampered 35 yards for the score.
Taholah’s defense held Quilcene to just 74 yards of total offense in the first three quarters while the Chitwhins built a 52-0 lead. Impressive sophomore Jimmy Smith-Kramer intercepted three Ranger passes.
“The defense performed very well. They (Quilcene) ran a lot of weird formations, and we had no film on them.” said Taholah assistant coach Shaun Straka. “We basically just hammered fundamentals all week in practice. We focused on playing our guy and filling gaps. Jimmy Smith-Kramer and Justin Curleybear had great days in the defensive backfield. Cleve Jackson at linebacker is the quarterback of our defense. He did a great job of assigning players. Joseph Winn plays some nasty D line out there. It’s such a luxury as a coach to have an athlete like that. Teams go away from him, and his presence cuts the field in half. That changes the game.”
The Chitwhins will attempt to avenge a 59-24 loss to Lummi.
“Luckily we have film on Lummi, and we’ve played Lummi” said Waugh. ”We’re going to watch a lot of film. We want to know what they do, and their formations, and we’ll let the boys take it from there.”
“We are not the same team” said Straka. “Now we have the Winn brothers, and Joseph brings a lot of emotion and spark. Justin Curleybear only played 10 plays against Lummi the last time because he was just coming back from a head injury. But most importantly, in week three we hadn’t gelled yet. Everything is flowing now. Our offensive line is working well together, our defense is starting to trust each other, and we are learning to battle through adversity. We have a great mentality. Nobody hangs their head when things don’t go well. We are teaching the kids to forget about it and move on.”