By RayJaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
Survive and advance is the theme here in the postseason, if you win your season continues and if you lose well, prepare for next season. Memorial stadium and cold and rainy fall weather set the atmosphere for their district playoff matchup, as Garfield and Ferndale matched up against one another in a 3A district playoff game Saturday afternoon.
After receiving possession first, The Bulldogs immediately capitalized on the opportunity as quarterback E.J. Caminong found Jacolby Cochran for 55-yards, which set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Caminong to Rowley Canale to give the Bulldogs’ an early 7-0 lead.
Even with an early score both defenses came up with consistent stops. Garfield forced the games’ first punt and a tackle by the Bulldogs’ Yemoni Howell resulted in a turnover on downs by Ferndale. Ferndale responded by getting a sack on the quarterback and intercepting a pass on the very next play.
At the end of the first quarter, Garfield still had their lead despite an early turnover.
Defensively, Garfield caught on to the trick plays of Ferndale and got stops in man-to-man coverage.
After forcing another punt, it was time for the Garfield offense to answer. The Bulldogs began to get their running backs involved which opened up their playbook, which led to Caminong connecting with Cochran for a 45-yard touchdown.
With momentum looking completely in favor of Garfield, Ferndale looked to put points up as they wore down the defense and marched down to the Bulldog goal line. What looked like an automatic touchdown, turned into a turnover, as Garfield’s defense came up with a big hit and recovered a fumble at the goal line.
After recovering the fumble, Cochran would break loose for a 74 yard run that gave the Bulldogs a first down deep in Ferndale territory. The run set up a 33-yard field goal as Garfield expanded their lead to 17-0.
The defensive momentum continued with 44 seconds left and a double-digit lead, Garfield’s defense forced another fumble which they recovered that ended a scoring threat by the Panthers.
Despite their lead head coach Reggie Witherspoon wanted more from his team.
“We have to continue to be physical, the defense is making great plays as you can see forcing turnovers,” said Witherspoon. “If we keep playing physical we’re going to force turnovers and we do.”
With a two-score deficit, Ferndale received the second half kick and looked to get their offense in a rhythm. Neither teams’ offense established anything during the third quarter. From penalties to punts forced by the defenses, each team didn’t do much.
Despite the stagnant offense, Garfield broke the ice by throwing different running backs in each play, allowing them to march down the field and control the time of possession.
With the score and time in the Bulldogs favor, Garfield’s drive from late in the third quarter continued in the fourth. Coach Witherspoon went for it on fourth and ten, and Caminong found Cochran toward the sideline for a catch before falling out of bounds to keep the Bulldog’s drive alive.
A 36-yard field goal going through the uprights capped off Garfield’s drive, extending their lead to 20-0. Ferndale would force a fumble late. After a recovery and a penalty against the Bulldogs’ defense, Ferndale would score on a six-yard touchdown pass.
Despite their numerous penalties and ultimately giving Ferndale another opportunity to score, Garfield battled through the mistakes, and sealed the deal with a hit by Garfield’s Denali Dukes that gave the Bulldogs their fourth turnover of the game.
“We have to remind ourselves to play clean and not beat ourselves with the penalties,” said Dukes after the game. “If we play clean, it can be a completely different outcome.” Not necessarily finishing strong, the Garfield Bulldogs won 20-7 and will advance to the next round of the WIAA 3A playoffs.