The Peninsula High School Seahawks defeated their perennial rivals and friends, the Gig Harbor Tides, 36-12 in the opening game of a resurrected season Feb. 19.
It was the fifth consecutive Fish Bowl victory for the Seahawks, making the overall record 21 wins for each team since the first ad hoc tournament was played in 1979.
The usual autumn homecoming carnival that is Fish Bowl was made impossible by the pandemic in 2020, but new state Department of Health guidelines led to a launch of abbreviated seasons for high school sports, starting locally in an empty stadium at Roy Anderson Field.
Gone were the thousands of shivering half-dressed teenagers who would normally roam the venue, bodies painted in their school colors and adorned with miles of Mardi Gras beads. There were no fans, no bands, no food trucks, just a blanketing silence broken by the sound of the ball being kicked or caught, and the roar of the players when one of their own got a hand on it.
Peninsula came to the game with a more seasoned team than the talented up-and-comers of Gig Harbor. The Seahawks won the Class 3A South Sound Conference championship last year with a 7-0 record under QB Peyton Bice, who graduated, and conference MVP Sean Skladany (DE/FB), now a senior.
After receiving the first kick, the Tides incurred three penalties in three plays and punted.
The Seahawks were led by junior Jake Bice making his debut as starting varsity quarterback. Bice played in three games in the 2019-20 season, relieving his brother Peyton.
Bice made 9 yards on a QB keeper, setting up senior Landon Sims (RB/OLB) for their first touchdown and the extra point 4 minutes into the game. Running back Ethan Hogan set up the next TD after a 25-yard carry when he got tripped up on the 2; Sims ran the ball in on the next play. The ball was fumbled going for the extra point, making the score 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 215-pound Skladany spent most of the second quarter dragging defenders downfield as he moved the ball. He was stopped at the 1 after a 5-yard run, setting up Sims’ third TD. With the extra point, the score was 20-0.
The second half started with a 99-yard kick return TD by Peninsula senior Bryce Cleave (WR/CB). The ball was fumbled again before the extra point, though the holder tried unsuccessfully to run it in. Score 26-0.
The Tides struggled to get past the Seahawk defense, but sophomore Tides QB/FS Payton Knowles began to heat up in the second half. At nearly 6 feet and 145 pounds, he outran tackles to complete short passes and attempt a few dramatic long shots, reaching mid-field for the first time in the game. After two short runs he made it to the 14-yard line. His pass into the endzone was slapped away by Cleave, and the Seahawks took over on downs.
Bice launched a long pass that was tipped by a defender and wobbled like a wounded duck before being intercepted by Hudson Cedarland (WR/SS), who ran it back to the 11-yard line. A call for holding pushed the Tides to the 21. After losing more ground, Gig Harbor attempted to punt but Peninsula got to the ball before the kick and started back to their own endzone.
Bice made one first down after another with short passes and handoffs, gaining 5, 10, 15 yards at a time but got pushed back by flags; the Seahawks incurred 10 of 18 penalties by then. Senior Camron Watkins kicked a 26-yard field goal, making the score 29-0.
Knowles hit the gas in the fourth quarter with horizontal passes for little gain and some successful longer shots, but every receiver was immediately knocked down. Then he connected with a 10-yard pass to junior Cole Rushforth (WR/OLB) in the endzone for their first TD with 8:16 left in the game. They went for 2 but the pass was incomplete. Score 29-6.
The Seahawks were forced to punt with 5 minutes remaining but then recovered a Tides fumble on the next play at the 20-yard line. Bice handed off to Skladany to run it down to the 10, and then to Sims who got it to the 3, and then to Skladany again for their fourth TD. The extra point was good, making the score 36-6 with 3:54 remaining.
Knowles blasted a short pass to sophomore Colin Montgomery (RB/MLB), who proceeded to set a new land speed record for 87 yards and a second Tides TD. The kick was blocked, making the score 36-12, which became the final.
After a successful on-side kick by the Tides and a fumble a few plays later, the Seahawks recovered the ball and took a knee to end the game. The opposing teams shook hands, embraced, and began to howl, not at each other but into the surrounding silence.
Peninsula won a definitive victory, even while the community lost a Fish Bowl. But Gig Harbor will be back next year as a stronger contender, and so will we.
This article earned Ted Olinger third place for sports reporting in the annual statewide Washington Newspaper Publishers Association contest in 2021.
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