‘We battled back and forth the whole time’

Kangs lose to Seattle Prep; Squalicum downs Juanita.

Lake Washington’s football players didn’t want to leave the field. They didn’t want their season to end.

About a half hour following the Kangs’ 28-17 loss to Seattle Prep in the playoffs on Nov. 9 at Memorial Stadium in Seattle, the guys remained on the turf, some talking with friends and family and others kneeling by themselves — gathering their thoughts.

“That one hurt a little bit,” said senior running back/linebacker James Gardner, who ran the ball 19 times for 116 yards and added a host of tackles and a sack on defense. “We battled back and forth the whole time. We came together, everyone was doing their part.”

The Kangs’ goal was to return to the playoffs after last year’s stellar season, Gardner said. An emotional Gardner said he’s proud of his teammates and the effort they put forth against Seattle Prep and during another great campaign, which saw the Kangs win the 2A/3A KingCo championship.

Seattle Prep busted open the scoring gate with 24-yard touchdown run from Alijah Vaouli-Buchanan with 9:57 left in the first quarter and then tallied on a 17-yard pass from Jake Sype to Braeden Smith to go ahead, 14-0, with 2:37 remaining in the first frame.

LW got on the board with a Josiah Dillard 11-yard run with 7:47 left in the first half and then the Kangs inched closer, 14-10, after Liam Sweeney nailed a 29-yard field goal. LW recovered the ensuing onside kick and threatened to score as the clock winded down in the first half, but quarterback Jakson Voelker’s 17-yard run ended at the 8-yard line as time expired.

LW took a 17-14 lead on a Voelker-to-Deacon Latourelle 20-yard pass with 4:28 left in the third quarter.

“We knew that they were a good team coming in and we got punched in the mouth right away. I think it just says a lot about everyone on the football team, not just their playing ability but their mental toughness, just to punch ‘em back and just hold them to that 14 for as long as we did,” Gardner said.

Seattle Prep regained the lead for good with a Smith 47-yard run up the right side with 4:25 left in the game. Down 21-17, LW drove up field but Seattle Prep recovered a fumble with 2:42 left at the Kang 40-yard-line and soon added a 27-yard Vaouli-Buchanan touchdown run with 41 seconds left. Vaouli-Buchanan rumbled for 135 yards on 18 carries on the night.

Senior offensive and defensive lineman Ryan Thomson said everyone put in their full effort for their teammates and coaches. It’s an indescribable feeling to participate in the playoffs at Memorial Stadium, he added.

“You play for everybody else. The game’s not about you, it’s not about the guy next to you, it’s about all of you coming together to make something great happen,” said Thomson, who had a sack on the night. Evan Liggett added an interception along with a bevy of tackles for LW.

• In other playoff action, Squalicum defeated Juanita, 49-7, on Nov. 8 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.