Big, mobile and faster than most defenders, Natano Woods is a matchup nightmare.
Whether he runs off tackle, darts out of the pocket or rifles a pass, Kentridge’s 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior quarterback is difficult to stop, even to slow down.
On Thursday night, Woods was dominant, running for 199 yards and four touchdowns and passing for 270 yards and three more TDs as the Chargers exploded for a school record for points scored in a game, rolling past rival Kent-Meridian 71-51 in flag-marred North Puget Sound League Sound Division play at French Field.
Kentridge, with its fifth straight victory, secured the division title and an NPSL divisional crossover playoff berth. The Chargers (5-1) clinched their first winning season since 2009 and will play the No. 4 qualifier out of the first-tiered Mountain Division on Oct. 26-27.
“We’re going to think about that stuff a little bit, but really there’s the next game,” said Brett Ogata, Kentridge’s second-year coach who has led a program revival following a 2-8 finish a season ago. Kentridge hosts Auburn next week. “I want us to keep playing well and getting better. That’s what we’ve been doing all year long.
“We took another step forward today, and I am really proud of the players. They worked so hard for this.”
Pass-powered Kent-Meridian (2-4) couldn’t match every Kentridge scoring drive.
“We just didn’t make plays like we needed to, and we gave up a lot of big plays to them,” said K-M coach Justin Callander.
Overshadowed in the loss for the Royals was the brilliant play of their senior quarterback, Isaac Cordova, who threw for 595 yards and eight touchdown passes, both school records. Jeziel Dewitte, Chris Korman and Nate Jones each caught two TD passes.
Cordova threw on nearly every down, completing 38 of 59 passes.
The teams combined for 1,230 yards of total offense, with Kentridge finishing with the edge, 653 to 577.
The Chargers’ spread offense, which averages 44 points a game, was explosive. Kentridge scored on its four possessions of the game, trading TDs with K-M during a first-quarter, PlayStation-paced scoring spree that stretched 54 minutes of real time.
Woods ran for two TDs in the first quarter, then found Jeremy Banks on a 14-yard score in the second. Woods’ 71-yard dash led to his third scoring run, a 4-yard smash, that opened up a 43-26 lead with 2:16 left to play in the half.
Kentridge stretched the lead to 50-26 on Woods’ 32-yard strike to Michael Faber midway through the third quarter.
Woods’ fourth rushing TD, an 8-yard keeper, came with 1:28 left in the third quarter. He later hooked up with Ben Victoria from 7 yards out, giving Kentridge a 64-38 lead with 5:35 left to play in the game.
“It was a wild game … there was a lot of back and forth. There was going to be challenges,” Woods said afterward. “I just have to give props to my linemen … for all of their work.
“We have a strong connection to each other … we support each other,” he said. “We can go far. We just have to trust in one another. We have to believe in one another.”
In Woods, Ogata has seen a “phenomenal player” grow before his very eyes.
“He’s really turned into a dedicated leader this year, and his leadership has really turned him into a special player,” Ogata said. “He has the belief system, that confidence. … It’s really cool to see him over the year grow into this really top-flight player. … Last year he was this really good athlete playing, but this year he’s really understanding the position and being a leader, and the team has grown from that.”
Strong-armed and agile, Kentridge’s Cam Newton-style quarterback remains a humble sort despite attracting plenty of attention. Several colleges have taken notice, including Oregon State, San Jose State, Wyoming and Portland State. Woods, however, remains focused at the task at hand. He enjoys the game.
“I like to take advantage of my size. You don’t see a lot of 6-foot-5 guys at quarterback out there. It’s pretty rare,” Woods said. “You can’t find that many who can throw it that far. I am just blessed to have that ability.”
The Royals had few answers in trying to contain Woods. Three turnovers also proved too much to overcome.
“He’s just a special player,” Callander said. “He’s unstoppable. I mean, we had three or four guys on him and he still got through.”
Despite the loss, the Royals remain in contention for the division’s second playoff spot. K-M travels to Federal Way to take on Thomas Jefferson next Saturday.
“We will be ready for next week. We still have a chance at the playoffs,” Callander said. “We’ll definitely be OK. We’ll keep fighting.”
For Kentridge, Jaron Gonzalez ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Banks led the Chargers with 10 receptions for 131 yards.
For K-M, Korman had seven catches for 144 yards, and Jordan Wigfaill finished with eight receptions for 135 yards, including a 65-yard catch-and-run for a score on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Dewitte had nine catches for 86 yards, Jones had seven for 116 yards.
Both teams combined for 34 penalties for 290 yards.