Best in league, Kentwood continues to stumble in the playoffs.
A week after crushing Kentlake for the North Puget Sound League Cascade Division title, the Conquerors hit a wall in falling to high-powered Eastlake of Sammamish, 49-0, in a Class 4A district football playoff at French Field on Friday night.
Daniel Bradley ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns and Ben Howard threw three scoring strikes for the Wolves (7-3) who advance to face KingCo neighbor Skyline in next week’s state playoff opener.
“I have complete confidence in my team and our offense. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to do what we do,” said Bradley, a 6-foot-1, 206-pound senior. “Big shouts out to my O-lineman. I love all of them. They played their butts off. They deserve everything they get.”
Kentwood finished the season 7-3, its seven-game winning streak coming to an end.
The Conquerors have won five consecutive division titles, only to meet elimination in the opening round of the playoffs each time, their last post-season victory coming in 2011.
Second-year coach Mike Bush knows as much.
“We’ve got to get over (the hump),” he said.
From the outset, the Wolves established and controlled the line of scrimmage, with Bradley doing the damage. He ran for 139 yards and both of his scores during a 28-0 first-half spree for Eastlake.
“They start with the run. They are aggressive and physical on the interior, defensively and offensively, and we just couldn’t combat that tonight,” Bush said of Eastlake.
It was Kentwood’s third loss to a KingCo team this season. Once considered a weak league, KingCo has grown stronger over the years, based on postseason results.
“The last 10 years (the power) has shifted. It’s our jobs as coaches in the NPSL to try to get it back and continue to work with our kids and get it back and grow our league,” Bush said. “Our league is starting to improve. … We’re just not there yet.”
Kentwood was undone by mistakes, notably losing two fumbles, in the game.
Trailing 14-0, Kentwood moved into scoring position, thanks to Colby Burton’s 25-yard connection to Jacob Cronn to the Eastlake 27-yard line. But the Conks’ drive stalled at the 20 after a fourth-and-three toss was tipped away near the line of scrimmage with 11:45 to play in the second quarter.
The Wolves built their lead on two late first-half scores – Bradley’s 1-yard smash and Cody Cox’s 64-yard pass to Hank Pladson on a halfback-option throw with 58 seconds left in the second quarter.
“They are as good as advertised,” said Kentwood senior running back Chavez “Chevy” Kalua-Fuimaono. “They came ready to play. They did their game plan. Their linebackers flew around. They were everywhere.”