For E’Lon Mack, practice makes perfect, and it led to a perfect finish to the regular season for Heritage.
Mack caught six passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half — as Heritage beat Evergreen 34-12 on Friday at McKenzie Stadium to clinch a Class 4A playoff berth.
Heritage (3-6, 2-2 4A Greater St. Helens League) will play at 10th-ranked Lake Stevens on Nov. 5 in the 4A state preliminary round.
“He’s one of the better receivers in the league,” Heritage coach Jack Hathaway said of Mack. “We just try to use his speed and athleticism and take advantage of it. (Quarterback Joey Cooper) knows who the guy is and gets the ball to him when he needs to.”
Mack caught a 13-yard pass play for a touchdown from Joey Cooper in the first quarter to give Heritage an early 7-0. Then the Timberwolves caught Evergreen off-guard by quickly snapping the ball after an interception gave Heritage the ball on its own 13. Mack, a sophomore, got behind the Evergreen defense for an 87-yard touchdown pass play.
“That’s what happens when you run the hurry-up (offense),” Mack said. Evergreen “didn’t get their defense set and the corner tried to get over. But I was able to get by him and Joey just chucked it.”
The tandem of Cooper-to-Mack connected again for a 29-yard touchdown pass play to put Heritage up 20-0 at halftime.
“We were running streak (plays) in practice all week,” Mack said. “I was getting tired in practice, too. But we just tried to utilize our speed on the field and go over the top of them.”
In the second half, the Heritage defense took over to make sure Evergreen didn’t make a game of it. The Timberwolves intercepted four passes — two by Tanner Ulsh — and recovered two fumbles, one muffed punt return and an onside kick.
“Anytime you’re playing in this type of weather, turnovers are going to be a factor,” Hathaway said. “We just have to put our guys in the right spots. We did that, and they made the plays.”
Evergreen was held to 181 yards of offense, but also had 124 penalty yards.
Heritage won back-to-back to end the regular season and return to the postseason for a fifth consecutive season.
“Our kids have a lot of confidence right,” said Hathaway, who is in his first season as Heritage’s head coach. “And that’s a dangerous thing.”
HERITAGE 34 EVERGREEN 12
Heritage 7 13 7 7—34
Evergreen 0 0 6 6—12
H — E’Lon Mack 13 pass from Joey Cooper (Bailey Thomason kick)
H — Mack 87 pass from Cooper (Thomason kick)
H — Mack 29 pass from Cooper (run failed)
H — Cooper 2 run (Thomason kick)
E — Trent Foster 14 pass from Anthony Thomas (run failed)
H — Gage Boyce 9 run (Thomason kick)
E — Atem Konkin 19 pass from Thomas (run failed)
Rushing — Heritage — Boyce 8-44, Rajheem Carrie 10-41, Cooper 10-29, Brandon Burns 9-34, Mariesse Ross 1-(-2); Evergreen — Justin Straup 18-71, Jared Tellis 2-13, Tequan Wallace 2-6, Jamaree Jones 2-5, Anthony Thomas 3-(-14), Timur Zhividze 1-(-14).
Passing — Heritage — Cooper 9-18-1-183, Ross 0-1-0-0; Evergreen — Thomas 12-26-4-114, Brody Bagnall 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — Heritage — Mack 6-144, Carrie 3-39; Evergreen — Javier Hernandez 5-70, Konkin 3-27, Foster 1-14, Straup 1-3, Bagnall 1-0.