The Eatonville Cruisers got the first leg up in the 1A Evergreen Conference football race on Friday.
Eatonville scored with 8 minutes, 12 seconds to play when quarterback Job Kralik plunged into the end zone from two yards out to take back the lead, then made a defensive stand inside the final minute to secure a 27-22 victory over the host Tenino Beavers.
“Great game,” Eatonville coach Gavin Kralik said. “I think we’re going to have multiple teams coming out of our league. Montesano is doing really well, too, and our league was 15-5 in nonleague games through the first four weeks.”
Kralik’s game-winner culminated a 10-play, 56-yard drive and capped off a night in which he rushed for 138 yards on 18 carries – and was only the third-leading rusher in the game.
That’s because Eatonville running back Dylan Norman ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. But even his total was dwarfed by what Tenino back Dylan Spicer put together on Friday. The 6-foot-2 senior also carried the ball 22 times, but for 252 yards and two long touchdowns.
Spicer broke through the line on a third-and-10 from his own 19 and raced 81 yards with 6:07 left in the first half to tie this one at 14-14. Then, with 1:07 to go in the third quarter, immediately after the Beavers (4-1 overall, 0-1 Evergreen) had forced an Eatonville punt, Spicer broke an 80-yard scoring run that, with the 2-point conversion, gave Tenino a 22-21 lead.
The Cruisers (5-0, 1-0) responded with a 10-play, 56-yard drive of their own that was capped by that Kralik leap to retake the lead with 8:12 remaining. The Cruiser quarterback’s third touchdown came just two plays after Norman went down hard and didn’t stir for several minutes.
When Norman finally got up, he did so slowly with a brace immobilizing his head and neck from too much movement. Norman was taken to a local hospital where Kralik said as a precaution he was being checked out.
The team didn’t know yet what kind of injury Norman suffered, especially his quarterback who was in pain briefly himself at the time.
“I don’t know,” Job Kralik said. “I was cramping. But he’s a tough kid. I’m sure he’ll be back.”
WHAT PASSING GAME?
Kralik and Norman accounted for all but two yards of Eatonville’s total offense against Tenino. There were a total of three passes thrown the entire game.
Kralik went 0-for-2 with an interception that came on the game’s second play and led to the Beavers initial touchdown of the game, a one-yard run from Randy Marti that staked Tenino to an 8-0 lead after Marti converted the two-point run.
Tenino threw just one pass, their last offensive play after the Beavers had run the ball 46 times leading up to that final attempt with under a minute to go. The final 12 rushing attempts came during the game’s final drive in which Tenino ate up all but 29 seconds of the final 8:12 of the fourth quarter.
It played out just as the Beavers would have wanted, except for the lack of a game-winning score.
“That’s exactly what we wanted it to look like,” Tenino coach Cary Nagel said.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Exactly - until the game’s final meaningful snap sealed the deal. With under 40 seconds left, and after a timeout, Tenino faced a fourth-and-nine at the Cruisers 27. A play earlier, the Beavers had a pass play called – intended to surprise the Eatonville defense – but a missed assignment allowed too much defensive penetration and Tenino quarterback Cody Strawn was forced to run, losing two yards on third and seven.
So, timeout. Then the pass happened, Tenino’s only pass attempt all game. But Eatonville defensive back Ky Nation was there to bat the ball to the black turf and allow the Cruisers to take one knee with 29 seconds remaining to end the game.
“That’s what happens,” Nagel said. “You miss one assignment against a really good team, you lose 27-22.”
The Cruisers head home to play another Evergreen power in Montesano, while the Beavers will look to bounce back on the road against Hoquiam. Both games begin at 7 p.m. on Friday night.