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By CASEY OLSON
It was a celebration that was 30 years in the making.
For the first time in the history of Decatur football, the Gators will play in the postseason. Decatur blew away the storied Puyallup Vikings Friday night 41-10 in scary fashion. The victory moved the Gators to 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the South Puget Sound League South Division and dropped Puyallup (7-2, 6-2) out of the playoff hunt.
It was Halloween, said first-year coach Bill Heglar. So I guess everything is weird on Halloween.
Maybe the weirdest thing about Friday night was the fact that the Gators needed to beat the Vikings by 14 or more points to even get into the playoffs. So, essentially, Puyallup started the game with a 14-0 lead. But that really didnt matter in the end.
The victory over Puyallup gave Decatur the third-and-final playoff berth from the SPSL South and earned them a Saturday night matchup with the fourth-ranked and undefeated Evergreen (Vancouver) Plainsmen at McKenzie Field at 7 p.m. in Vancouver. The winner will earn the West Central Districts No. 1-seed into the 16-team state playoffs and a matchup with the winner of a game between defending state champion Kentwood (SPSL North No. 2 seed) and Rogers (SPSL South No. 2 seed).
We are just looking at playing Evergreen right now, Heglar said.
Evergreen won the Greater St. Helens League title by blowing away second-place Mountain View Friday night, 59-28.
They look pretty good, Heglar said. But you really dont know these teams from outside your area. It is just how you adjust. Some of them look a lot better than you think and some look worse than you think. But these guys look pretty good.
But so did Puyallup coming into Fridays game. The Vikings were the seventh-ranked team in the state and had blown away Rogers, 61-6 earlier in the season and had only one loss to undefeated Bethel. Decatur lost to Rogers 42-14 Oct. 3.
Helping the Gators pull the upset Friday night was an amazing stretch during the second quarter. Following a solid 45-yard field goal by Puyallup to cut the Gator lead to 7-3, Decatur tallied three touchdowns in less than a six-minute stretch. The first came on a perfect 75-yard pass from senior quarterback Darin Harris to senior wideout Nick Isaac, who had single-coverage down the right sideline.
Nick was a little taller than their guy and Darin got a little time from our line and made a great throw, Heglar said. I dont think they thought he could throw like that.
The second-quarter onslaught continued, thanks to three plays involving junior Taylor McCluskey. Following Isaacs touchdown catch, McCluskey made a diving catch on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Gators a 15-3 lead.
The linebacker then followed with a diving interception on the Puyallup 40-yard line to give the Gators the ball back. After being stalled on three plays, Decatur punter Ryan Burks had a punt tipped at the line that hit a Viking upback and McCluskey jumped on the ball to give Decatur possession on the Puyallup 36. Six running plays later, senior Kyle Bressler took the ball in from 1-yard out to give the Gators a 22-3 lead.
It didnt end there.
On the Burks kickoff, Puyallups Justin Terry lost control of the ball and Isaac recovered on the Vikings 24. Two plays later, junior tailback Rodney McCurry scored from 11 yards out to give the Gators an insurmountable 28-3 lead heading into the locker room.
We did get a lot of the breaks, Heglar said. But, I guess, you make your own breaks.
Following halftime, the Gators added two more touchdowns and ran out the clock thanks to the bruising running of Bressler. The 5-11, 200-pounder rushed for 107 tough yards and added two more touchdowns to his impressive 2003 resume. On the year, the fullback has 1,108 yards rushing and a league-high 21 touchdowns.
I thought that they came into the game with a pretty good defensive scheme, Heglar said. It took us quite a while to find out what play was there.
The play proved to be a counter run through the middle of the offensive line, which was set up during the first half by outside runs by McCurry.
He was kind of our sacrificial lamb, Heglar said. We were running him out there and he was getting hit pretty good.
But the outside running gave something else for the Puyallup defense to worry about and set up inside runs by both Bressler and McCurry later in the game, along with the outside passes to Isaac on play fakes.
Isaac also caught a 25-yard, second-half touchdown from Harris on a tipped ball. Issac finished with three catches for a 144 yards and two touchdowns and McCurry added 53 yards on 12 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
We are just tickled to be where we are, Heglar said.
The Decatur defense was also a big key Friday night. The Vikings came into the game averaging nearly 40 points a game, but the Gators limited Puyallup to just 124 yards on 51 plays an average of 2.2 yards a play.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com