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Warriors get healthy, get a win, get ready for playoffs

The Warriors show that they're not dead yet, plan a long playoff run
by: Miles Vance FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHT — Aloha’s Jeffrey Horton tries to make a tackle against Sunset’s Adrian Johnson during the Warriors’ 24-13 victory on Friday night.

CEDAR MILL - Aloha's defense of its 2010 football state championship hasn't gone exactly as planned.

Not by a long shot.

The Warriors saw five starters - three of them starters on both sides of the ball - knocked from the lineup this year and suffered through a five-game losing skid that stretched from the end of non-league play and well into the league schedule, and rocked the defending Metro League and Class 6A state champions.

Aloha still has some work to do to right the wrongs of the past month, but the Warriors took another important step in that direction Friday night, knocking off Sunset 24-13 at Sunset High School for their second win in a row.

'We've got a lot of momentum going in (to the playoffs),' said Aloha senior quarterback Cory Sinner, who scored his team's clinching touchdown on a 5-yard run with 45 seconds left to play on Friday. 'We know we're going to have to do it the hard way, but we've got a lot of momentum. The goal is a state championship, so we might as well beat someone good early and go on from there.'

'We're back,' added junior lineman Brayden Kearsley, who recovered a Sunset fumble in the third quarter for the only turnover of Friday's game. 'We had a lot of injuries from that Grant game, but you know what? We came back after those losses and now we're doing pretty good.'

The win lifted Aloha's Metro League record to 2-3 (4-5 overall) and left it in a third-place tie with both the Apollos (2-3, 6-3) and Westview (2-3, 2-5). The Warriors then were awarded the league's fifth seed to the playoffs based on the Metro's tiebreaker formula and will play at Redmond at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 6A Play-In round. The Panthers are 3-6 this year and finished third in Special District 2 play.

Sunset, meanwhile, earned the league's third seed to state thanks to their earlier win over Metro co-champion Southridge, and has a bye Friday night. Sunset will open the Class 6A state playoffs on Nov. 11-12 against an opponent to be determined after the Play-In round.

'We'll do well in the playoffs,' said Sunset junior wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Hendry, who had his team's lone touchdown on Friday night. 'Except for some plays, that was an even-fought ballgame. It could have gone any way.'

'We're planning on improving on defense and on offense both,' added junior running back Bruce Jones, who led the Apollos with 35 yards rushing. It's just 'not making those mental errors like we did today and improving.'

In Friday's game, the two teams traded field goals in the first quarter, with Sunset's Michael Metter hitting from 40 yards and Aloha's Lenana Meekisho responding from 35 yards at the end of the period. The Warriors advanced as far as the Sunset 3-yard line on that drive, but were flagged for a personal foul on third down and had to settle for Meekisho's field goal.

Sunset took a 10-3 lead two series later when quarterback Dane Poorman connected with Hendry on a 26-yard TD pass over the middle to Hendry with 4:36 to go in the first half. Poorman went 3-for-3 on the drive, also connecting with Josh Brown for 14 yards and Adrian Johnson for 18 more along the way.

Aloha responded immediately, though. The Warriors came back with a 69-yard drive to tie the game, capping that series with a 21-yard Thomas Tyner TD run with 50 seconds left in the half. Tyner and his line shouldered the load throughout that series, carrying five times for 49 yards.

Neither team scored in the third period, but Kearsley recovered a Reggie Coulter fumble at the end of the quarter, and Tyner scored three plays later, going 37 yards around left end on the first play of the fourth to make it 17-10.

Sunset answered with a 30-yard Metter field goal on the ensuing series to cut the gap to 17-13, but after a trade of punts, Aloha put the game on ice.

Starting from their own 49-yard line, the Warriors drove 51 yards in six plays, with Tyner carrying five times for 21 yards, Aloha benefitting from two Sunset personal fouls, and Sinner ending it with a five-yard run up the middle with 45 seconds left in the game.

'The fourth-quarter drive, we knew what we were going to do - we were going to run the ball, use some clock and get the job done,' Sinner said. 'The line controlled them, the defense stepped up and we won.'

'That turnover was a game changer,' Kearsley said. 'They were driving the ball on us, but once we got that turnover, it changed it.'

Tyner finished with 216 yards and two TDs on 34 carries. For Sunset, Ian Banks-Clark had three catches for 68 yards.

The Apollos, meanwhile, knew they'd played well enough to win, and left confident that they would be ready for the playoffs.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.