'Cats fall to Totems in Kingco opener

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BELLEVUE - The Mount Si Wildcats struggled against the Wing-T offense last week in a 28-14 road loss against the Sammamish Totems.

It was the first test against a Kingco team this year for Mount Si, and although there were some Mount Si highlights, the defense had a hard time containing the running game of the Totems. Interceptions and penalties plagued the offense, preventing the Wildcats from gaining any momentum.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Wildcats' offense, led by quarterback Tyler Littlejohn, began to struggle. Mount Si was forced to punt with 10:14 left in the first quarter. Performing the punting duties was Cody Hyatt, in for the injured Erik Tierney.

The Totems started from their own 2-yard line as Eric Jochim found a hole and ran 67 yards down the sideline. Luckily, the Wildcats' Eric Alexander caught him from behind to stop the score. The Wildcats' defense, known in the season's previous three games for stuffing opponents, held firm at their own 10-yard line. With fourth-and-two looming, the Totems took to the air and found Laine McCann in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point failed and the Totems led 6-0 with 4:08 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats would answer with a score of their own on the next possession. Alex Grazda took the kick and ran it up to the Wildcats' 30-yard line. A run by Adam Rothgeb and a pass to Eric Alexander on the slant pattern moved the ball near mid-field. The drive stagnated but a late-hit penalty against the Totems kept the Wildcats' drive alive. Brandon Yakaboski took over for several plays, moving the ball to the Sammamish 35-yard line.

Kyle Mueli came up big with a beautiful catch on the Totems' 15-yard line to move Mount Si within striking distance. But from there it was all the Wildcats' Zach Bowen who, running the same slant, caught the ball in the end zone for the touchdown. Kicker Chris Brown added the extra point and Mount Si led 7-6 as the clock ticked down in the first quarter.

Unfortunately, the Totems momentum continued, with the team picking apart the Wildcats' defense. A tipped pass gave Sammamish a first down in Mount Si territory and the running game moved the ball to the Wildcats' 3-yard line. McCann ran it in for the touchdown and the Totems added a two-point conversion by Eric Jochim to take a 14-7 lead with 8:19 left in the second quarter.

On the Wildcats' next series it appeared that Mount Si would answer after Yakaboski moved the ball to the Totem 24-yard-line. Littlejohn then threw a tight spiral to Meuli in the corner of the end zone but a holding call negated the touchdown. The series ended when Littlejohn threw an interception at the Totems' 7-yard line. Mount Si countered with some strong defense of their own, disrupting the running game of the Totems. Meuli then hauled in an interception of his own with 2:08 left in the second quarter.

Starting from their own 47, Mount Si looked to even the score before the end of the half. But several plays later the Totems picked off another Wildcats pass and with only seconds left before heading to the locker room, Jochim plowed his way into the end zone for another Totem score. The extra point was good, giving Sammamish a 21-7 lead heading to the locker room for halftime.

In the second half, the Wildcats' defense stepped things up a notch, shutting down the Totems' first two drives. But a third interception with 4:36 in the third quarter gave the Totems another opportunity to score. It looked as though the Sammamish drive stalled but a roughing-the-kicker penalty by the Wildcats as the Totems tried to kick a long field goal gave them another opportunity. This time a 14-yard run by Jochim and extra point gave the Totems a 28-7 lead.

The Wildcats' defense held from there, giving Mount Si an opportunity to work the offense.

Rollin Smith came on as quarterback for the 'Cats and immediately went to the air. Several passes to Grazada moved the Wildcats into Sammamish territory. With 6:02 left in the game, Stefan Marth hauled in a pass from Smith for the touchdown. Brown added the extra point to make the score 28-14.

In a highlight sure to be part of the post-season celebration, the Wildcats' Brown booted a beautiful on-side kick. When the pile cleared, Mount Si had the ball near mid-field. But, the Wildcats would turn the ball over to the Totems on a fumble allowing Sammamish to run down the clock to end the game.

"Offensively we didn't play that bad other than the four turnovers," said frustrated head coach Charlie Kinnune. "We were able to move it at times and then boom, we would have a penalty. We couldn't get in the end zone enough and we threw three interceptions.

The tightness of the Totems' execution also was evident in this first league contest.

"They didn't turn the ball over at all, and in this league we can't turn the ball over. We couldn't stop the run, they ran through us all night. We don't tell our kids to see the ball, we tell them read their keys and trust their keys like we have coached them to do. But if they are peering around in the backfield, then you are in trouble," Kinnune added.

Injuries also are plaguing the Wildcats as they start their regular season.

"We are pretty thin right now and that has hurt us," said Kinnune speaking of a few injuries that have sidelined players such as Tierney. Hyatt still doesn't look back up to full strength and Meuli left the game near half time due to an injury.

Mount Si takes on the best team in the state, Bellevue, this Friday at Bellevue. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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