Even after a 56-0 thumping at the hands of defending State 1A champion Royal, the Deer Park players weren’t pouting or weeping.
The Stags fell victim to the mighty Knights, who won their 26th straight game Saturday in a state semifinal at Gonzaga Prep.
But looking at the bigger picture, Deer Park head coach Keith Stamps is still proud of his team – although he wishes his team wouldn’t have struggled as much against Royal.
“We were excited about the challenge, and they’re as good as advertised,” Stamps said. “It was good for our program to be here and see them and play them. Obviously, we were hoping and preparing for a different outcome, but my hats off to Royal.”
The disappointing loss puts an end to a groundbreaking season for Deer Park. The Stags won their first playoff game in school history after dispatching Naches Valley 21-0 in the first round. They followed it up with their second win by dispatching Zillah 24-6 in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve been working for this ever since we were freshman,” DP senior quarterback Connor O’Dea said. “It feels amazing to finally do it.”
Against the Knights, the Stags couldn’t continue their magic. It subsided almost from the opening kickoff when Royal put together a 71-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Kaden Jenks’ 11-yard scramble. Jenks connected with Adrian Trinidad for a 31-yard completion on fourth-and-5 from their 42-yard line to set up the game’s first score.
The Stags failed to generate any offense, punted it back to the Knights. Royal scored again as Jenks connected with Isaac Ellis for a 38-yard touchdown reception for a 14-0 advantage.
Corbin Christensen, a first-team all-South Central Athletic Conference wide receiver, then made his presence felt for Royal. The senior scored the Knights’ final three touchdowns of the half, with catches of 29, 35 and 28 yards for a 35-0 lead at halftime.
Jenks finished 10 of 12 with 203 yards passing and 75 yards rushing on 11 carries. Christensen hauled in 92 yards for three touchdowns. The conditions were perfect for Jenks and Christensen to go off.
“On a nice 50 degree day, we thought we could turn it loose a little bit,” Royal head coach Wiley Allred said.
The Knights added three scores in the second half on touchdown runs from Danny Cueva (30 yards), Juan Niebla (13 yards) and backup quarterback Sawyer Jenks (33 yards).
The Knights move on to play Connell in the State 1A title game Saturday in Tacoma. Connell defeated La Center 24-7 in Vancouver to move on.
Allred expects a closely contested final game.
“We played Connell and it’s an absolute dogfight,” said Allred, referring to the Knights’ 28-21 win over the Eagles on Oct. 14 this season. “It’ll be a battle. It always is.”
Seniors O’Dea, fullback Dean Lockwood, wide receiver Austin Wisinger and middle linebacker Josh Daving played their last games as Stags. But key playmakers, including running back Tyson Lim and wide receiver Trayton Bird, are set to return next season as seniors.
“They’re really, really good players,” O’Dea said. “They’ll be leaders next year. They’ll help, they’ll be really dynamic.”
While it’s hard to be optimistic after losing in the fashion Deer Park did, Stamps couldn’t be happier after his 13th season at the helm.
“We’re excited about the Deer Park football program,” Stamps said.
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