On the first stormy Friday night lights of the season, the Thurston Colts took their home field for the final time in the regular season to take on the South Eugene Axe. The Colts raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead and finished with a 42-0 win, moving to 5-2 on the season and bringing them one game closer to their sixth-straight league title.
“I’m happy for these kids to be a part of that, and excited for them to be in a position to be league champions,” said Thurston coach Justin Starck, noting that the rainy conditions will play a role during the postseason. “I think that we’re getting better all the time. We should be ready for the postseason, we have to figure out where we’re gonna play first because I doubt it’ll be here.”
The ball started with the Axe on their own 23-yard line. The Axe took advantage of two Thurston penalties – one being on a key third down – as they took the ball all the way to Thurston’s 34-yard-line. The seven-minute opening drive fell apart though, as Thurston defensive end Luke Newell stuffed a 4th-down attempt.
The Colts took over at their own 28-yard line, but didn’t stay there for long as running back Ethan Burkhead gained 17 yards on Thurston’s first offensive play of the game. Junior quarterback Noah Blair and senior wide receiver Walker Bonar connected on passes of 22 and 20 yards to set up a 33-yard touchdown pass from Blair to Trey Silva.
It didn’t take long for Thurston to get the ball back either. After the Colts forced a 3-and-out, the Axe punted to Thurston’s 45-yard-line to end the first quarter.
Thurston picked up right where it left off in the second quarter, rushing for 29 yards on its first three plays, immediately following that up with a Blair touchdown pass to Newell for 27 yards.
“I just had so much fun tonight. It’s my senior night and I was just going out to have fun,” Newell said. “I felt like I was flying around and just sliding in the mud like I was when I was a little kid. It was just super fun.”
Thurston’s defense also picked up right where it left off in the second quarter, recovering a South Eugene fumble on its own 17-yard line. The Colts capitalized on the good field position immediately as Burkhead ran the ball in for a 17-yard touchdown on their first play, giving Thurston a 21-0 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
“It was good. We were kind of worried all week, since we’re playing not a very good team that we might just take it off lightly, and we didn’t do that,” Newell said. “We wanted to come out and make a statement early, which I feel like we did.”
The Colts made another statement on their next possession when Blair connected on a 67-yard touchdown pass with Bonar to go up 28-0.
Down 28 points, South Eugene pushed the ball up to Thurston’s 24-yard line late in the half, taking advantage of two Thurston penalties along the way – a late hit and pass interference. The Thurston defense held fast again though, as linebacker Holton Halstead forced a fumble, recovered by defensive end Tim Dreiling.
It took Thurston just seven plays to make its way down the field as Ethan Burkhead waltzed into the endzone for a 10-yard rushing touchdown. Thurston got it done every way imaginable in the first half as their passing and rushing games were both firing on all cylinders.
“It’s necessary in the playoffs, especially in (rainy) conditions like these – it’s very important to us,” Starck said about a balanced attack offensively.
The second half was more of the same from both teams as Thurston continued its dominance with a running clock. The Colts opened the half with a 12-play drive that took almost nine minutes, capped off by a 10-yard run from Ashden Weiler.
A 42-0 lead and a running clock gave the Colts the opportunity to give the second-stringers some work. The back-ups picked up a couple unnecessary penalties late though, forcing Starck to call a timeout to get the team’s head back in the game. All a part of the growth process.
“That was my frustration. That’s why I called the timeout, that was my message to the team is, ‘That’s not who we are or what we’re about.’” Starck said. “We had some young guys in the game, and they’re exuberant, eager, and they want to make a play and they just do something dumb. We still love them – they’re still our guys and we wouldn’t trade them – but we were a little frustrated.”
As the team grows closer to the post-season, the group of seniors says goodbye to the field that brought them many good memories.
“They’re a great group. They’re another group that’s been together a long time, played youth football together.” Starack said. “There’s 17 of them and they’re all just great young men and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Thurston top performers: Noah Blair, 9-of-11, 188 yards, 3 touchdowns, Ethan Burkhead, 5 rushes, 94 yards, 2 touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 receiving), Walker Bonar, 4 catches, 130 yards, 1 touchdown, Defense, 2 forced turnovers, 1 turnover on downs, 0 points allowed, 80 total yards allowed.