Miraculous finish for BHS Knights? Not quite

Hardly anybody paid attention to the kid who streaked across the Memorial Field grass, holding his sneakers in one hand and wearing only a pair of briefs.

The disbelieving Bremerton Knights were walking around in a daze, pondering their mistakes and trying to gather their feelings after a wild emotional ride during a 24-21 Narrows League Bridge Division loss against Gig Harbor.

Half the student body could have streaked naked across the field and they wouldn’t have noticed.

Their thrill of another improbable last-second victory had just been replaced by the agony of defeat when an apparent 61-yard touchdown pass with no time left was negated by a penalty.

The Knights, who rallied to beat Central Kitsap 39-34 after recovering a late onside kick the week before, had time for one play when they lined up at their own 39-yard line seconds after Gig Harbor’s Andy Willis had booted a 24-yard field goal to give the Tides the lead.

The instructions?

“Just go deep,” said Bremerton coach Shawn Perkins.

Quarterback Joe Bollinger heaved a desperation bomb to buddy Kellen Alley, who sliced through the Gig Harbor secondary to make the catch near Gig Harbor’s 25. Alley spun, shaking off a tackler, and somehow weaved his way into the end zone.

While many of the Knights and most of the hometown fans started to celebrate, Bremerton coaches and some of the players knew better. They’d watched two officials throw their yellow flags when the ball was snapped. The Knights were in an illegal formation. One of Bremerton’s slot backs lined up too far off the line of scrimmage, said Perkins.

“I saw (the penalty flags) as soon as the ball was snapped,” said a downcast Aubrey Neal, whose electrifying 54-yard gainer after taking a short pass from Bollinger had set up Bremerton’s go-ahead score late in the game.

Justin Robinette’s 7-yard run after Neal’s burst pushed the Knights ahead 19-14 with 2:33 left. Bollinger was successful on his extra-point run, giving the Knights a 21-14 lead.

It wouldn’t hold up.

“Too many mental mistakes,” Neal said, “but we played our hearts out.”

Bremerton (3-3 league, 4-3 overall) played at Shelton (4-2, 4-3) on Friday, Oct. 26. A Bremerton victory, combined with a South Kitsap victory over Port Angeles, would force the league to hold a three-way mini-playoff for the No. 3 playoff spot. If needed, Bremerton, Port Angeles and Shelton will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The likely site would be Silverdale Stadium or Viking Stadium in Poulsbo. The survivor would play the Bay Division’s No. 1 in a winner to state/loser out playoff on Nov. 3.

The Knights would have control of their own destiny, except for some crucial late-game mistakes against Gig Harbor. A pass interference on fourth down enabled the Tides to drive for and score the tying touchdown with 1:26 left. And a blocked punt with 45 seconds left set up the drive that led to Gig Harbor’s game-winning field goal with :06 left.

Earlier, dropped passes and penalties victimized the Knights, who played perhaps their finest defensive game of the season. Defensive lineman Shaun Trepasso had two sacks, another tackle for loss and seemed to be everywhere in the second half. Ike Leiataua, an active 325-pounder, and cornerback Anthony Ragsdale — both making their season debuts — were also big factors on defense.

Credit Gig Harbor’s defense, too. Bollinger passed for 595 yards and nine touchdowns in his two previous games, but the senior completed just 6 of 30 passes for 149 yards against the Tides. He was intercepted once. He did throw one TD pass, a 54-yarder to Taylor Empolen-Smith, who got behind the Tides’ defense in the first quarter.

Empolen-Smith later hauled in a 24-yard scoring toss from Willie Bussey, who took a pitch from Bollinger and then completed the pass with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter.

While the Knights made enough plays to win the game, Bremerton’s high-powered offense never got untracked, totaling just 288 yards.

Bremerton missed Reggie Williams, a fleet split back and one of Bollinger’s favorite targets. Williams sprained an ankle in practice and was still not expected to be 100 percent for the Shelton game. Gig Harbor played without punishing runner Paul Turnbull, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.

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