Coach and quarterback have passed this way before.
Big game, great results.
Mike Bush didn’t hesitate to put the Kentwood offense in Jalin Church’s hands after the starter, Jackson Proctor, went down with a shoulder injury two weeks ago.
Church responded, just as he did last year when he assumed the starting role three games into his sophomore season.
On Friday night, the poised junior passed for two first-half touchdowns and directed a punishing ground attack that enabled Kentwood to wear down Glacier Peak of Snohomish for a 41-31, state-qualifying win at French Field.
The Conquerors (8-2), the North Puget Sound League Mountain Division runners-up, advanced to the first round of the 4A state playoffs to face fifth-ranked Bothell (8-2). Kickoff is 7 p.m. this Friday at Pop Keeney Stadium.
It is Kentwood’s second trip to state in three years.
“Feels great. Amazing. Outstanding,” Church said afterward.
Church struggled early but found his rhythm once he firmly planted his cleats while searching for open receivers from the pocket.
“I just came back to my roots, and whatever coach told me to do last year and this year with my footwork I thought about when I was throwing,” he said.
Church found Jaelin Green, a 6-foot-5 sophomore receiver, on touchdown tosses covering 27 and 39 yards for a 14-0 Kentwood cushion.
“Jalin did a great job,” Bush said.
But the Grizzlies pulled even at halftime after Jack Fullerton crashed in from the 5 and Ryan Black scored on an 8-yard run – a score set up by a Kentwood fumble – with 1:06 left in the half.
Kentwood, however, took over in the second half. Gabriel Johnson and Akil Brown each ran for a pair of TDs. One of Johnson’s scores covered 66 yards.
Fullerton’s 3-yard TD run tied the game at 28-28 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. But Kentwood went ahead for good when Johnson scored from 4 yards out, capping a 9-play, 80-yard drive early in the fourth quarter.
Glacier Peak drove to the Kentwood 27 on its ensuing drive, but the Conks held, and the Grizzlies settled for Brayden Corwin’s 44-yard field goal that closed the gap to 35-31 with 3:56 to play.
Kentwood was able to hold onto the ball, with Church keeping the ball for runs of 11 and 29 yards on the drive. Brown finished it off, erupting for a 29-yard TD run with 2:17 remaining.
Dyllon Daniels’ interception sealed the win with 1:11 to play.
Bush was relieved afterward.
“They’re a great football … big and physical,” the coach said. “Hats go off to them.”
Glacier Peak couldn’t match Kentwood point for point.
“We had to get a stop on defense and we weren’t able to do that,” said Grizzlies coach Shane Keck. “They’re more athletic than we are. … They have some running backs and receivers. We don’t see those types of athletes in our (Wesco) League.
“Credit them. They ran the ball in the second half,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in our defense, but tonight we found someone with better athletes.”