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Bears marching toward playoffs, despite recent disruptions
POULSBO — Despite being shaken by a lightning storm and a tough loss on the same night, the Kitsap County Bears football team is marching toward the postseason for the second year in a row.
The semi-professional team, founded in 2008, has built an 8-2 record this year in the Cascade Football League, with one regular season contest remaining.
"A second-year team going to the playoffs two years in a row isn't bad. It's a credit to all these guys busting their butts," said Bears head coach Dave Snyder, who also coaches at North Kitsap High.
The Bears, who sit in fourth place in the nine-team CFL, picked up their second loss of the season July 11 when they fell 30-13 to the undefeated Seattle Stallions in a highly charged game at the North Kitsap Stadium. Prior to that game, Kitsap's only defeat had come in a 26-0 shutout at the hands of the 7-2 Renton Ravens.
"For us to go 8-2 this year after being 4-6 last year, I think we're doing great," Bears owner/player Don Purser said. "We picked up some higher caliber players and our experience is up there. We have a more mature team this year."
There was electricity in the air Saturday night, bringing excitement for players and fans alike. During the game's opening drive, as a light rain began to dampen the turf, the Bears' defense halted a Stallions scoring attempt by stuffing the Seattle run attack on fourth down with their backs against the goal line. Kitsap struggled on offense during the next several drives, though, and set Seattle up with a short field more than once. The Stallions took advantage, building a 10-point lead before Kitsap put points on the board.
Late in the second quarter, the Bear defense forced a fumble near midfield and returned the ball to the Stallion 10 yard line. When a Seattle player grabbed running back Nic Stearns's facemask on the next play, the Bears had a new set of downs and a line of scrimmage three yards from the end zone. Kitsap's Dave Michaelis gave his team a quick six points on a run just seconds later.
After Seattle's Carlos Clark caught his second touchdown pass of the game, the Bears put together a speedy two minute drill. While thunderclouds moved in from the southeast, quarterback Nick LaFontaine lofted a 37-yard pass down the sideline into the arms of Jackie Thomas to set the Bears up inside the 10. With just 12.6 seconds on the clock, LaFontaine muscled his way across the goal line from a yard out to cut the Stallions' lead to four points going into the intermission.
Early in the third quarter, lightning began to strike Poulsbo and the game was temporarily put on hold. Players and officials headed toward the covered seats, but a group of Bears mingled next to the stands, at field level. A flash lit up the sky next to the stadium, and less than a second later, as the peal of thunder ripped through the area, 300-pound men scampered into the bleachers.
"I've never had a semi-pro game this weird," Snyder said of the storm.
When play resumed 25 minutes later, the Stallions took over. Marcus Brooks danced into the end zone late in the third to put Seattle up by 10, and Kitsap failed to respond. Early in the fourth quarter, Stallion quarterback Leo Dickerson put the final nail in the Kitsap coffin when he hung a 27-yard pass in the back corner of the end zone for ex-Seahawk Lawrence "Taco" Wallace.
"We have a really tight brotherhood," Snyder said after the loss. "Losses like this kind of test it. But we'll come together, we'll come back, and see where we sit for playoffs."
The Bears play their final regular-season game 7 p.m. July 18 at the North Kitsap Stadium versus the Tacoma Warriors.