Central Kitsap running back Nicholas Zawadski ran for a career-high 336 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns, but it took a 52-yard scoring pass from Joshua Schweiterman to Greg Cleveland with 59.5 seconds left in the game to seal a wild 38-34 Narrows League victory over Mount Tahoma Friday night.
The Cougars led most of the game, but Mount Tahoma quarterback Junior Gillespie lofted a 52-yard touchdown strike to Robert Donald with 2:01 remaining that gave the host Thunderbirds a 34-31 lead.
But whatever momentum Mount Tahoma had collected, Central Kitsap stole it right back with one flip of the wrist from Schweiterman, its senior quarterback.
The victory puts the Cougars (4-4 overall, 3-3 Narrows) in strong position to secure a state-playoff berth.
“All we said on the sideline after they took the lead late in the game was that we still had time left and to stay positive,” Central Kitsap coach Mark Keel said. “Our kids knew the game wasn’t over.”
Until the final, frantic minutes, the spotlight had been on Zawadski and Mount Tahoma standout Rondie Pate, who dazzled a homecoming crowd at Mount Tahoma Stadium with 208 yards rushing, 49 yards receiving and an 87-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
Pate had all four of the Thunderbirds’ touchdowns, including runs of 55 and 71 yards in the first period.
“We saw him on film and knew what he could do,” said Keel of Pate. “He’s so fast and so elusive. But there’s no way you can simulate what he does in practice.”
Zawadski was equally impressive. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior galloped 78 yards to pay dirt on the game’s first play from scrimmage and had 219 yards rushing and three touchdowns by intermission.
“I knew we had to win this game if we were going to make the state playoffs,” Zawadski said. “I ran has hard as I could on every play. Our goal is to make the Tacoma Dome.”