Daniel Shurr, Special to KP News

Senior Cole McVay tries to pull down a pass during Peninsula’s preseason game against O’Dea Sept. 6. Photo: Ed Johnson, KP News

A new QB led Peninsula to a 7-0 season and into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. How did they do it?

It has been an unreal season of fall sports so far at Peninsula High School, with most teams making a postseason appearance. While the majority may fly under the radar, Peninsula Seahawks football was still the pride of Purdy at 7-0 in season play (8-2 overall), until the Mt. Spokane Wildcats stopped the train in Spokane Nov. 15. 

The Seahawks got off to a slow start, losing their first (and only) two games out of conference in September. These preseason games only help with playoff seeding in high school football, but those losses came back to bite Peninsula in their postseason run. 

The first was a 21-6 loss at home Sept. 6 to the O’Dea Fighting Irish from Seattle, the team that knocked Peninsula out of the playoffs last season. O’Dea was ranked seventh in the state to start the year, while Peninsula was ranked a respectable 11th. The Hawks saw a similar outcome in the next game, struggling on offense and losing to the Sammamish Skyline 25-17.

Peninsula notched their first victory of the year at home in week three in a decisive 38-12 win over the North Thurston Rams Sept. 19. That boosted confidence and paved the way for a 55-0 dismantling of the Shelton Highclimbers the following week. Peninsula saw their toughest win on the road Oct. 3, squeezing past Timberline 24-21 thanks to a late pick in overtime by senior Cole McVay, playing safety at the time, spoiling Timberline’s homecoming game. With a solid three-game winning streak, the Hawks kept the wheels turning on the road against Capital with a 27-7 win over the Cougars. 

The Peninsula offense was overshadowed all year by their dominant defense, but a home game against the Yelm Tornadoes proved that the Hawks under senior quarterback Peyton Bice could indeed keep their heads above water and score points in the midst of a shoot-out. Peninsula took down Yelm and their high-powered offense 31-28 in their last home game of the regular season Oct. 18, putting them in control of their own fate and in contention for the 3A South Sound Conference championship.

Next up for the Hawks was the most important game this side of the Narrows Bridge: the 41st annual Fish Bowl against Gig Harbor Oct. 25. Peninsula must have wanted the win more, as the Seahawks offense exploded and the defense played stellar, delivering their fourth consecutive Fish Bowl 42-3 and making them No. 1 in the SSC.

But the Hawks still had one game left to play against the Capital Cougars. Peninsula easily took that game 49-7 after the reliably solid defense paved the way for another offensive explosion by the Hawks, earning a first round home game in the playoffs Nov. 7 against the Arlington Eagles. 

The Seahawks won that game 35-0, sending them to play the Mt. Spokane Wildcats in Spokane Nov. 15.

That’s where the wheels came off. Peninsula scored first with a field goal after an interception in the first quarter, but then struggled with penalties and missed opportunities. Junior Bryce Cleave had a couple of big runs, including a 45-yard return to open the second half, and later provided good field position to set up junior Sean Skladany for the Hawks’ lone TD in the fourth quarter. Final score: 35-10, Wildcats.

But how did the Seahawks find the success they did? 

For openers, the entire team stepped up this year. While many had starting positions last year, like senior linebacker Nolan Casey or senior left guard Joe Hilley, others had enormous shoes to fill. Senior quarterback Bice took a few snaps last year, filling in for then Peninsula QB Burke Griffin, who went on to play Division I football at the University of New Hampshire. 

But Bice only played when Peninsula was smacking around the opposing team. This year he had to start, and performed well enough to give the team its fourth consecutive SSC title and a playoff berth. Through eight games, Bice racked up 1,191 yards through the air, threw for eight touchdowns, and lobbed nine picks into the hands of the wrong team. His rushing stats weren’t a thing of beauty, but the Seahawks QB put up solid stats through the air, considering PHS is a run first, ground and pound offense. 

Sean Skladany was the lead running back for Peninsula, and during the regular season rushed for 682 yards and went over 100 yards on the ground in two games this season. He also found the end zone a handful of times on the ground, helping the Seahawks offense find their late season success, and becoming the SSC’s Most Valuable Player.

Peninsula head coach Ross Filkins, now in his 25th year, anticipated a postseason run for the Hawks, possibly capped off with a state championship. One thing is certain — this senior class has stepped up through adversity and triumph, and everyone on the football team assumed a leadership role. Peninsula didn’t win it all, but Seahawks football will remain the pride of Purdy for years to come.

Daniel Shurr is a Peninsula High School senior and PHS Outlook sports writer. He lives near Vaughn. Read more of his work at www.phsoutlook.com.

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