FOOTBALL: Foster knocks off Eatonville, clinches state berth

The Foster High football team was given an early jolt in a Class 2A state preliminary game against Eatonville Friday, Nov. 5. That jolt came in the form of Eatonville's Stephen Howell, who returned a kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown and handed the Bulldogs an early 7-3 first-quarter deficit. Instead of panicking, the Bulldogs did what they've done all season. They regrouped.

The Foster High football team was given an early jolt in a Class 2A state preliminary game against Eatonville Friday, Nov. 5.

That jolt came in the form of Eatonville’s Stephen Howell, who returned a kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown and handed the Bulldogs an early 7-3 first-quarter deficit.

Instead of panicking, the Bulldogs did what they’ve done all season. They regrouped.

Foster took the lead right back and went on to dominate the game 37-14, adding another highlight to a standout season and giving the Bulldogs their first state berth since 2001.

“We really took it to them,” said Foster coach Jim Sutrick. “I think Eatonville was a little shocked that our kids were so skilled and physical.”

Foster also showed tremendous composure, particularly for a group that lacks postseason experience and that compiled a 5-15 record in the previous two years combined.

Of course, that was then and this is now for the Bulldogs, a group that clicked from the beginning of the season.

Senior quarterback Aaron Rodriguez finally had the same offensive system in back-to-back years, which helped the Bulldogs bolt out to a 4-1 start this season.

Rodriguez led the Seamount in passing yards (1,764), touchdowns (16) and completion percentage (62.3).

Foster ran into a tougher part of its schedule after the quick start and fell to Hazen and Lindbergh down the stretch, but held on to a playoff berth.

“Every week from here on out is going to be a Kennedy and a Lindbergh and a Hazen,” Sutrick said. “The challenges and walls are in front of us and we need to overcome them.”

Sutrick said Eatonville was a great draw for the Bulldogs because the teams are old rivals from when both played in the Nisqually League. Even though the current players weren’t around back then, they are familiar with the history. That gave the team an easy way to keep focused and intense for the game.

The Bulldogs scored 27 unanswered points after Howell’s kickoff return to put the Cruisers away.

Rodriguez passed for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Gabe Gutierrez caught eight passes for 81 yards. Gutierrez also completed one pass for an 83-yard touchdown and intercepted three passes on defense. Gutierrez led the Seamount in receptions (38), receiving yards (838) and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (nine).

Cedric Cooper rushed 21 times for 135 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season.

The win, and resulting state berth, hammered home the lessons Sutrick and his staff have worked to instill in the team.

They have curbed problems with grades and tardiness that existed when Sutrick took the team over two years ago.

“The success puts in concrete the work we set in the offseason,” Sutrick said. “These kids were accountable and responsible and it’s very rewarding to see that work pay off.”

Now the buzz around the team is growing. Sutrick gets students stopping him in the hall and telling him they plan on trying out for the team next season.

[flipp]

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