VANCOUVER — Skyview has played what is arguably the toughest high school football schedule of any Northwest team this fall. So when faced with a double-digit deficit Thursday night at Kiggins Bowl against Battle Ground, the Storm didn’t blink.
The lessons and resolve Skyview gathered in playing Camas (Class 4A No. 1) and Eastside Catholic and O’Dea of Seattle (3A No. 1 and 2) earlier this season gave the Storm the confidence they needed to overcome the Tigers in a 17-14 win.
Brody Barnum and Tavis Pinkney connected for two second-half touchdown passes, getting the game-winner on a 21-yard scoring play with 7:50 left in the game.
“It sure shows we’ve played good teams. We’ve been in this situation before and we finally got over the top,” said Skyview coach Steve Kizer, drenched from Thursday evening’s relentless rain.
It’s a win that could prove huge for the Storm (4-3, 1-1 Greater St. Helens League). The GSHL gets only two Class 4A state playoff berths this season, and Camas wrapped up the No. 1 berth Thursday night with a 41-11 win over Heritage. Skyview’s win over Battle Ground (5-2, 1-2) gives the Storm the upper hand in the battle for No. 2, though the Storm must finish the job by completing the regular season with wins over Union and Heritage.
It’s also a win that didn’t exactly appear apparent for much of the night. Battle Ground controlled the first half, using its running game to take a 14-3 halftime lead.
The Tigers scored on their opening drive, successfully gambling on fourth-and-goal from the 3 when quarterback Gunner Talkington rolled to his left and easily strolled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Following a Skyview field goal of 32 yards by Wyatt Stallman, Battle Ground scored early in the second half quarter when a pitch from Talkington to Bailey Buckner turned into a 4-yard touchdown play.
The Tigers nearly made it 21-3 in the second quarter, but Skyview’s defense turned back Battle Ground on fourth-and-1 at the Storm 5.
Halftime couldn’t come fast enough for a Skyview defense needing to make some adjustments. Storm coach Steve Kizer said they knew Battle Ground could run the ball, but weren’t ready for the Tigers’ option game, particularly playing against a quarterback like Talkington who had thrown for 1,881 yards through six games.
“We spent the whole halftime stopping option. We just went back to our base defense,” Kizer said.
Battle Ground continued to have some success running the ball during the second half, but Skyview owned the critical moments. The Tigers twice drove inside the Skyview’s 25 during the second half, but came up empty each time.
“Our defense played well enough in the second half to shut them out. That’s how we won the thing,” Kizer said.
Well, not exactly. While the defense got a handle on the Tigers’ offense, Skyview finally finished a few drives in the second half that helped the comeback.
Skyview started the second half with a long drive made up mostly of running plays, but it eventually ended with a punt. The Storm decided for a change up the next time they got the ball, as on the first play, Barnum and Pinkney connected on a 61-yard touchdown play, pulling Skyview to within 14-10 late in the third quarter.
“We have a connection with each other. We don’t have to say anything. We just look at each other, and if it’s there, it’s a touchdown,” Pinkney said.
The Barnum-Pinkney duo connected again during the fourth quarter for the game-winner. On third-and 18 from the Battle Ground 21, Barnum lofted a touch pass to the left corner of the end zone, over Pinkney’s shoulders and into his hands for a touchdown and a 17-14 Storm lead with 7:50 remaining.
“That was fun to see. Those were two great balls. The one in the corner was a great catch, and the other was a great throw,” Kizer said.
Battle Ground’s offense had the ball twice during the final seven minutes, once driving to Skyview’s 24 before turning the ball over on downs.
The Tigers, who won their first-ever state playoff game in 2015, still have a shot at the postseason, but they’re now dependent on another team to make it happen. Should Skyview lose to either Union or Heritage during its final two games, Battle Ground could land in a three-way tie for second, resulting in a playoff tiebreaker.
But it’s not the clean path that Skyview faces. Win out, and head to the playoffs.
have football playoff implications