Pirates plunder playoff berth
By Chuck Mingori
The Highline High School football team came into Thursday night’s match-up with Renton needing a victory to advance to the district playoffs.
The Highline Pirates celebrated senior night with a rousing 52-36 win to capture a 2A South Puget Sound Division crown.
“These seniors have been through a lot over the last four years,” said Highline head coach Deontae Cooper, who led the honoring of the seniors before the game. “I knew they would come in and leave it all out there for us. We’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. We work really hard for it every day. They give us everything they’ve got and we do that too as coaches, and it all paid off tonight.”
With the victory, Highline (4-4 overall, 4-0 district) reaches post-season play Friday and will travel to take on the No. 3 squad out of the Mountain District. That will be River Ridge (3-5).
The Pirates found pay dirt first Thursday night at Highline Memorial when Kyle Gran intercepted a Renton pass on the Indians’ opening drive and ran it back 69 yards for a score. LJ Faletogo rushed for a two-point conversion to give Highline an early 8-0 lead.
When Renton fumbled the snap on a punt attempt, Jose Rodriguez recovered the loose ball at the Indians’ 15-yard line to set up the second Highline score. Facing third and long, quarterback Riley Piper connected on a 13-yard pass to Gran to move the ball to the 20. On fourth and 15, Piper rolled left and found Daniel Vuong, who hauled in the pass and crossed the goal line for the score. Evan Kinney converted the kick for a 15-0 Highline lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter.
Terrance Meneese led Renton to its first score. His run of 18 yards on fourth down had the Indians knocking at the door at the Highline 30. Running back Etena Tupa scored on a two-yard run and also converted a two-point conversion run to make it 15-8.
Meneese then broke loose on a 60-yard run for a score on the next Renton possession. But the PAT failed and Highline still led 15-14.
Enter Highline senior running back Kelvin Adu. Adu gathered in the ensuing Renton kick-off, found an opening and outran everyone, reaching the end zone on an 80-yard return.
Renton closed out the first-half scoring as Tupa took a lateral pass from Kevin Davis and went 46 yards for a score, breaking several tackles along the way. The Renton PAT cut the Indians’ halftime deficit to 22-21.
Highline’s Piper and Gran teamed up on a 45-yard pass play on the first drive of the second half to give the Pirates the ball at the 6-yard line. Adu took a pitch around the left end for his second score of the game. Kinney’s kick made it 29-21.
Adu answered again for Highline late in the third. The 5-11, 185-pound senior running back caught a pass in the right flat on third-and-12, and then cut back to the middle of the field. He raced to the end zone to complete a 58-yard scoring play. Malakai Carter threw to Voung, who hung on for the catch and a two-point conversion.
Third-down conversion attempts were successful on both sides. One such play came when Renton’s Meneese connected on a 27-yard scoring strike to Elijah McClain. Those two added a two-point conversion pass play as the score stood at 37-29 with 9:53 remaining in the game.
The passing duo of Piper and Gran re- connected for 31 yards on the next drive, which began with the Pirates’ Ishmael Togi returning the onside to the Renton 39. The Highline score came on another short run from Faletogo. Highline faked the kick and Carter ran around the left end for the conversion and a 45-29 Highline advantage.
An interception by Faletogo returned the ball to Highline, and Adu added his fourth touchdown of the game on a 46-yard run. The PAT bounced off the upright and through for a 52-29 Highline advantage with 5:08 remaining.
Renton’s Tupa scored his third touchdown of the game with 1:16 to play on a 12-yard carry. The PAT was good.
Renton fell to 3-1 in the divison and 3-5 overall.