TACOMA - For the better part of the past three years, the Neah Bay football team has owned its Northwest 1B League rivals from Lummi.
Starting with a victory over the Blackhawks in the 2011 Class 1B state quarterfinals and including victories in last year's 1B state semifinals and a regular-season win in October, the Red Devils had dominated four straight games.
The biggest reason for that run, if you ask Lummi coach Jim Sandusky, was turnovers - each time the Blackhawks were on the wrong end of the turnover differential and ultimately the scoreboard.
But on Friday, Nov. 29, Lummi put the ball on the turf four times and didn't lose a single one. Neah Bay defenders got their hands on three or four passes from quarterback Logan Toby, but didn't catch any.
Lummi actually won the turnover battle, but the Blackhawks still ended up losing the war. Neah Bay ended Lummi's season short of the championship game for the third straight year, scoring 46 unanswered points to stretch its win streak over the Blackhawks to five with a 46-14 victory at the Tacoma Dome.
The top-ranked Red Devils (12-0) move on to the state title game for a third straight year, while Lummi (10-3) will have to stomach a second consecutive semifinal loss to their rivals.
"We prepare hard all week - we prepare a lot, watch a lot of film, run things over and over again," Toby said. "I don't know - it just doesn't happen."
Though Lummi didn't commit a turnover in the game, the Blackhawks turned the ball over on downs six times in the game, including four times on Neah Bay's end of the field.
And there is a reason it's called "turning the ball over on downs."
"The turnovers on downs are what really hurt us," Sandusky said. "We had four of them that were really short - two of them I know were an inch. Maybe three of them. That's just the spot of the ball. I'm not saying it was bad spots, it's just tough."
Lummi was 3 for 9 on fourth-down attempts and only 2 of 13 on third down.
Though it wasn't their first fourth-down misfire, the Blackhawks' biggest came right before the half.
After Neah Bay took a 16-14 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the second quarter, Devin Cooper set Lummi up in great position by returning the ensuing kickoff 54 yards to the Neah Bay 27.
Things looked even better when Toby hit Dean Williams to set up a first-and-goal at the Red Devils' 2.
But after clocking the ball, three straight Toby passes fell to the Tacoma Dome turf, and Neah Bay was able to take its two-point advantage into the halftime locker room.
"That hurt," Toby said. "We could have scored right before the half, we just didn't capitalize. We didn't execute it right."
Sandusky knows as well as anyone how important execution is in the red zone.
"That's huge," Sandusky said of the missed opportunity. "The one play, our receiver falls and trips down. We actually turn around and run it again and just didn't get the pass off. We didn't have the end blocked, and he got his hand up and knocked it down when we're down here on the 2-yard line, our guy didn't come up and hit him. So he got his hand off and barely got it, but it was enough to make the pass go off. The other time our guys weren't set and ready to go, so we got off late. Just mental mistakes - it's really hard when we go over that in practice and we go over it, and then they lose sight of it in the game."
It certainly didn't start out that way for Lummi.
In fact, the Blackhawks couldn't have asked for a better start to Friday's game.
Lummi took its first possession and drove right down the field, with Toby and Kavarez Lane combining to pick up the biggest chunks. The drive started when Toby found Lane for a 26-yard gain to the Neah Bay 32 and finished with Lane taking a short pass from Toby into the left flat and tightrope walking down the sideline and in from 27 yards out.
Scoring is one thing, but stopping the Red Devils is something completely different, and Jacob Roberts single-handedly did that on Neah Bay's first possession. Not only did he sack quarterback Josiah Greene for a 2-yard loss on the Red Devils' first offensive play of the game, he recovered a Collin Haupt fumble at midfield on the second.
Eight plays later, Toby found Williams on an 11-yard slant for a TD, and Lummi found itself up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
"It went just like I thought it would," Sandusky said. "I knew we'd play them tough on defense and stop them a few times. It was just real discouraging to let that slip away."
Neah Bay answered with some physical running from Cody Cummins, including a 25-yard touchdown run, bouncing outside after the Blackhawks appeared to have him wrapped up.
Cummins added a 4-yard scoring run just two minutes before the half, and Greene found Zeke Greene for the 2-point conversion to give Neah Bay its first lead of the night at 16-14.
"We weren't containing the ball," Lummi senior defensive lineman Deion Hoskins said. "When we did contain, we didn't fill the cutback lanes. They cut back all through the game. They did it for the first few touchdowns, and they kept doing it after that."
Neah Bay really got things rolling in the third quarter, when Greene hit John Reamer for a 23-yard TD pass and followed it up with a 1-yard keeper after Lummi turned the ball over on downs at its own 17 on a fourth-and-three incompletion.
Another turnover on downs at their own 35 helped put Lummi in a 38-14 hole 21/2 minutes into the fourth, when Greene hit Tyler McCaulley from 33 yards out.
Neah Bay rolled up 264 yards of total offense after halftime to put the game away.
"It didn't seem like we were clicking on defense," Toby said. "Mistakes here and there - I wish we just would have done it better."
The Lummi offense, meanwhile didn't generate much relief, producing just 106 yards and three first downs in the second half.
"The plays were there, we just didn't execute," Sandusky said. "We either missed some blocks or whatever."
Lummi lists six seniors on its roster, two of which have been regular starters for a while.
"Deion is obviously the first one," Sandusky said. "He's been the staple of our team, so he's a tough one to lose. Hopefully he'll get to go on and play at the next level so it's not the last time we see him play. He's one of those guys that you really hate to see go.
"Logan, obviously is a quarterback who has done a really good job. He had a rough game. The third and fourth quarters, he just had some passes that didn't connect. Some weren't his fault. He's going to be a tough one to lose because he's a good leader - great guy to coach."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Lummi 14 0 0 0- 14
Neah Bay 8 8 14 16- 46
First quarter scoring
Lum - Kavarez Lane 27 pass from Logan Toby (run failed)
Lum - Dean Williams 11 pass from Toby (Williams pass from Toby)
NB - Cody Cummins 25 run (Josiah Greene run)
Second quarter scoring
NB - Cummins 4 run (Zeke Greene pass from Josiah Greene)
Third quarter scoring
NB - John Reamer 23 pass from Josiah Greene (Cummins run)
NB - Josiah Greene 1 run (run failed)
Fourth quarter scoring
NB - Tyler McCaulley 33 pass from Josiah Greene (Zeke Greene from Josiah Greene)
NB - John Reamer 22 pass from Josiah Greene (Collin Haupt run)
First downs 10 23
Rushes-yards 24-114 49-264
Passes Cmp-Att-Int 13-30-0 8-10-0
Passing yards 128 179
Third-down conversion 2-13 4-9
Fourth-down conversion 3-9 4-5
Fumbles-lost 4-0 5-2
Penalties-yards 9-66 10-67
Time of possession 21:56 25:57
Lummi Att. Yards Avg. TD
Devin Cooper 16 88 5.4 0
Hank Hoskins 2 14 7.0 0
Logan Toby 3 14 4.7 0
Jacob Joe 1 4 4.0 0
Deion Hoskins 1 -5 -5.0 0
Neah Bay Att. Yards Avg. TD
Cody Cummins 15 115 7.7 2
Josiah Greene 18 83 4.6 1
Collin Haupt 14 66 4.6 0
Zeke Greene 2 1 0.5 0
Lummi Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Logan Toby 13 28 128 2 0
Hank Hoskins 0 2 0 0 0
Neah Bay Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Josiah Greene 8 10 179 3 0
Lummi Rec. Yards Avg. TD
Dean Williams 7 50 7.1 1
Kavarez Lane 3 43 14.3 1
Austin Brockie 2 10 5.0 0
Devin Cooper 1 25 25.0 0
Neah Bay Rec. Yards Avg. TD
Zeke Greene 4 76 19.0 0
Tyler McCaulley 2 58 29.0 1
John Reamer 2 45 22.5 2
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.