All season, Skyline football coach Mat Taylor has challenged his team, the 17th in the short but storied history of the program, to leave its own mark.
Friday in the 4A KingCo title game against Bothell, the Spartans continued that process, building a four touchdown lead en route to a 28-14 win over the Cougars that gave them another conference championship, a top seed and another home game in next week’s district playoffs.
Senior quarterback Kilton Anderson tossed a pair of scores to key the offensive effort, the first on a fourth and 11 play to Derek Loville on the opening drive of the game, and the defense held down the Bothell offense, which came in averaging better than 38 points per game, to its second lowest total of the season in a controlling Skyline win.
Taylor said post game with a receiving corps that lost each of its top 10 pass catchers from last year, along with All-American quarterback Max Browne, the passing game has been forced to grow throughout the season and he knew it would need its most complete effort of the year against Bothell to claim a second straight conference crown.
“I made up my mind on Monday we really needed to see what we could do throwing the ball,” he said. “I was really proud of the way the kids responded.”
Anderson completed four of his five passes on the drive and hit Loville in the seam as the 6-foot-3 junior jumped into the end zone to give the Spartans an early lead they would never surrender.
Another Anderson touchdown on the next drive to Myles O’Connell put his team up by two scores and after the two traded punts, the transfer from Florida orchestrated a drive that got Skyline to the goal line in the waning moments before junior running back Chandler Wong scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on the night to make it 21-0 with only 16 seconds remaining in the half.
The Cougars and running back Sam McPhearson, who entered the game as the conference’s leader in all-purpose yards, were able to move the ball inside the Skyline 25 only once in the first half and produced no points on their first four drives over two-plus quarters as Skyline took control. When they did advance into plus territory, untimely penalties and Skyline’s edge rushing duo of Cameron Saffle and Josh Wright wreaked havoc in the backfield, keeping senior quarterback Ross Bowers and the Cougars out of the end zone.
“We just need to do a better job of executing our offense,” Bothell head coach Tom Bainter said. “It was a combination of their good play and one or two of our guys just not making a play.”
Sophomore defensive back Danny Sinatro snared a Bowers pass for an interception on the Cougars’ first drive of the second half that led to Wong’s second score, making the final 17 minutes little more than a formality with the Spartans’ defense slowing McPhearson and harassing Bowers.
“We know we’re a dominant defense,” Saffle said. “We had a great game overall.”
The Bothell offense came into the game as one of the most prolific in the state, scoring 42 or more points in all but two games this season (one of those was a 35-0 win over Woodinville last week and the other a 42-6 blowout to Bellevue). But with the KingCo title on the line, the Cougars managed only a pair of second half touchdowns to junior wide receiver Dayzell Wilson over a two-minute span, aided by a Ross Croson interception of Anderson on the sideline.
The second of Wilson’s scores, a 29-yard catch and run, briefly gave the visiting Crest Division champions life, but ultimately proved too little, as Skyline tipped the ensuing kickoff out of bounds before proceeding to go on a drive that ended on a missed field goal, but ate nearly six minutes of the fourth quarter clock to salt away the game and secure the win.
“We’re just really proud of the way the kids responded,” Taylor said. “They are really starting to believe in themselves.”
Before the game, the coach of the two-time defending 4A state champions said he challenged his team to earn a KingCo title banner to hang in the gym an, accomplishment Saffle referenced after the game with reserved excitement, evidence of a team looking for much more in the coming weeks.
“It has to be a short-lived win,” he said. “It is nice to get that banner, and move on.”
Skyline will host a district playoff game next week, Nov. 8 or 9, for a spot in the 4A state tournament.