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Turning the tide, top-ranked Graham-Kapowsin stampedes to surprising shutout victory over No. 4 Kamiakin: 3 observations

The Eagles turn away a pair of early Braves' red-zone drives, then ride their dominant run game to a runaway 42-0 win to reach their first Class 4A championship game.
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SPANAWAY - Six different players scored, and top-ranked Graham-Kapowsin stopped two early-game drives as it ran away with a 42-0 Class 4A semifinal victory over the fourth-ranked Kamiakin Braves on Saturday afternoon at Art Crate Field.

The win punches the Eagles' ticket to the state championship game next Saturday against No. 2 Lake Stevens, a 45-28 winner over Eastlake on Saturday, to be played at Mount Tahoma High at 4 p.m.

"We can’t enjoy it," Graham Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle said. "We have to focus. We tell them, this is the third quarter. Now there’s a fourth."

It’s the first title game ever for Graham-Kapowsin, and the second for Kurle, who previously advanced to the championship with Bethel in 2000.

Here are three observations from the Graham-Kapowsin-Kamiakin game:

IT’S A FULL BACKFIELD

Graham-Kapowsin scored all six of its touchdowns on the ground. From first to last, each came from a different source.

The guy who changed the pace of the game, though, was Michael Toa – the Eagles fullback. The junior carried the ball eight times for 86 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown on a bruising 8-yard run with 1 minute, 44 seconds to go in the first quarter.

Toa’s touchdown began a string of possessions that saw Graham-Kapowsin score six of the next seven times it had the ball. Only a frantic two-minute drill at the end of the first half that ended in a Josh Wood interception in the end zone interrupted the streak.

"Something just happened," said Toa, who also had the only sack of elusive Kamiakin quarterback Henry Mercado in the game. "That’s how I feel. It’s all thanks to the line."

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The Eagles ultimately rushed for 345 of their 432 yards of total offense.

RAINY DAYS AND PENALTIES

Neither weather nor adversity got Graham-Kapowsin down against the Braves - even when the down was fourth, or the yards long.

Wood, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 87 yards, used his legs to keep one drive alive even after two consecutive holding penalties pushed Graham-Kapowsin back to a first-and-24. On third-and-22, Wood stepped out of three tackles during a nifty 27-yard run.

"We’ve got great receivers, a great quarterback that can throw the ball," Kurle said. "But a night like this, it’s rainy. We knew we could beat them up front. We just kept going and kept grinding."

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

The Braves moved the ball on their first two possessions.

Taking the game’s first possession, Kamiakin marched from its own 20-yard line to the Eagles' 15 where it had a first down. Mercado threw an incompletion, then Jordan Woods ended the threat for Graham-Kapowsin with a diving interception at the 10 with 7:59 to go in the first quarter.