POULSBO — Skill players such as Dennis White and Derek Birley are always quick to give credit to their linemen, but after Evergreen’s first playoff win ever, the beef up front deserved it.
“Perfect job by them,” White said. “I get the ball — gigantic holes. Then it was just me and the secondary.”
And the secondary lost. So did North Kitsap.
Evergreen ground out 304 rushing yards Friday night with the rain and wind blowing in from the Puget Sound. With White’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns, Evergreen beat North Kitsap 28-14 in the Class AAA football playoffs.
Evergreen (8-2) next will play Sehome, a 28-21 winner over Rogers.
“I’m tickled to death to keep this thing going,” said Jon Eagle, who guided the Plainsmen to their first playoff berth in 1992. “These kids have done a great job improving.”
The main area of improvement — the offensive line, where only Eric Dodge and Shaen Ross returned with experience. They were to two lead men Friday night.
White, a shifty junior, had 121 yards on 19 carries. Birley, running primarily keepers up the middle and options on North Kitsap’s wide-open defense, had 97 yards on 22 carries. Fullback Kevin Stromberg added 76 yards on 13 carries.
“This is the most dominating game we’ve played,” said Ross, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior. “We just blew them off every play.”
The Evergreen defense held North Kitsap to 178 total yards, including 24 passing.
The Plainsmen had the ball for the first 8:29 of the third quarter and scored only once on Birley’s 8-yard keeper. It capped a 10-play 74-yard drive and made the score 14-7.
The Plainsmen got the ball back when John Cannon’s kickoff bounced off a North Kitsap player. But, Evergreen’s 11-play drive stalled when White was tackled at the Vikings 3. It was the third time Evergreen had been inside the opponent’s 25-yard-line and failed to score.
North Kitsap (6-4), the Olympic League champ, just as easily marched 97 yards to tie the game at 14-14 on an 8-yard pass form Jeff Carlsen to Mike Foreman.
After an exchange of points, Evergreen ran the ball eight consecutive times to go ahead 21-14. White followed Stromberg and Ross into the end zone on his 2-yard run.
North Kitsap had 4:25 left to tie. But, Rico Jones, the Vikings’ 1,000-yard rusher, fumbled on the first play and Evergreen’s Tim Dorey recovered.
Five runs later, White’s 3-yard plunge made the score 28-14.
Arguably, the Plainsmen’s air attack, led by Birley, got Evergreen into the playoffs, furnishing big plays in wins over Fort Vancouver, Kelso and Mountain View.
“We thought we could pass,” said Birley, who was 4-for-8 for 50 yards. “But we saw the wind and said ‘No way.’ ”
The Plainsmen showed pass, however, and the Vikings tried to defense them by removing their nose tackle and inserting an extra pass defender.
But Birley’s keepers and White’s blasts up the middle gained chunks of yardage, especially in the second half, and the Plainsmen continued to march even when the Vikings went back to their 4-3 defense.