By MATT DRISCOLL
The News Tribune
SPANAWAY – The beauty – and the agony – of playoff football is one team moves on, and one team sees its season come to an abrupt end.
Friday night at Art Crate Field, it was Graham-Kapowsin that lived to play another game, besting Monroe 42-17 in a game that was harder fought than the score suggests.
The Eagles now prepare to take on the Narrows League 4A champion Gig Harbor in the state playoffs.
Bearcats’ freshman quarterback Kainalu Batongbacal was given a particularly tall task, making his first varsity start in his team’s biggest game of the season. Filling in for sophomore signal caller Zack Zimmerman, who was injured in practice during the week and could only watch from the sideline, Batongbacal’s night certainly had its moments – including a gorgeous 84-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Shanden Mixayphone down the visitors’ sideline in the first quarter.
But in the end, the strength of the Eagles simply proved too much for the undermanned Bearcats to keep up with.
“I’m just proud of them,” said first-year Monroe coach Brett Jay of his team. “We play this game to learn something about ourselves, and to grow as men, and we did that. … This is the best game there is. It puts you in tough situations that you have to overcome, and we overcame a lot of adversity this year, and never blinked an eye.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, rode many of the same things that have carried the team for much of the season – strong offensive line play, tough running, and timely passing from quarterback Trevor Asbjornsen. Senior speedster Shannon Edwards was particularly effective, finishing with 151 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. Edwards’ 32-yard touchdown scamper down the sideline with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter sealed the game for Graham-Kapowsin.
“Monroe played hard. They got after it. Their kids played with intensity, and we had to match that,” said Graham-Kapowsin head coach Eric Kurle. “Now, we’ve just got to keep playing better every week. Everybody’s going to get better and tougher. We’ve got some great teams coming up.”