When it was all over, the Interlake Saints football team hoisted the iconic “Crossroads Cup” in jubilant fashion following their annual rivalry contest against the Sammamish Totems.
Interlake dominated all facets of the game, cruising to a 40-7 win against Sammamish on Sept. 9 at Interlake High School in Bellevue. For the second consecutive game, Interlake’s stingy defense rose to the occasion. The Saints, who earned a 40-0 shutout win against Shorecrest in Week 1, held Sammamish scoreless until the final minute of the contest when Totems’ running back Joseph Sanford scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.
Interlake’s defense has surrendered a meager seven points in 96 minutes of football, resulting in a perfect 2-0 overall record. Interlake first-year head coach Brian Hartline said his team executed the game-plan well defensively against the Totems.
“At the end of the day it’s not very fancy. It is just a matter of going out there and reading their keys and doing their job. That is what this team has done. They believe in that,” Hartline said. “I thought the defense played very disciplined.”
Interlake defensive players Paul Cemarka, Lucas Varela, Blake Hall and Max Collins wreaked havoc on Sammamish’s offense throughout the game. With the Totems’ trailing Interlake 13-0 late in the first half, Interlake left cornerback Michael Veliyev picked off Totems’ quarterback Matt Castle at the Interlake 11-yard line, returning the ball to the Totems’ 45 yard-line to stall the drive with less than a minute to go before halftime.
On the previous play, Sammamish missed out on a golden opportunity to cut Interlake’s lead in half. Sammamish quarterback Matt Castle threw a perfect pass to a wide open Sammamish receiver. There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of him but unfortunately for the Totems, the ball was dropped and the chance to score an easy touchdown was lost. Totems’ head coach Michael Cooke said his team’s miscues came down to not being able to execute.
“The game of football is about opportunities and you have to capitalize on those opportunities. We didn’t do that tonight,”Cooke said. “We just made too many mistakes to come out with the ‘W.” We’re 1-1, we’re .500 and we still have the rest of the season in front of us.”
Interlake slot receiver Naoki Harmer — who scored on a 83-yard punt return for a touchdown (which gave Interlake a 13-0 lead) after getting a devastating block from teammate Dylan Riel to spring him free up the left sideline with 4:41 left in the second quarter — said being undefeated is a great feeling at this point of the season.
“It is huge,” Harmer said of his team’s solid start to 2016. “We wanted to get off to a good start and now we want to keep rolling from now on out. (Brian) Hartline is doing a great job of bringing the guys together. We’re trying to get a nice winning record and make the playoffs this year.”
The Saints have outscored their first two opponents 80-7 and have dominated on offense just as much as on defense.
Saints’ quarterback Duncan Varela had two rushing touchdowns against Sammamish. Zenon Moses, Nathan Devine and Hall also scored rushing touchdowns as well in the victory against the Totems.
Hartline was all smiles watching his players celebrate with the “Crossroads Cup” at the end of the game under the bright glare of Friday night lights.
“It means a ton,” Hartline said. “It was funny, I wasn’t super nervous 45 minutes before the game but when the clock got to 25 minutes I was more nervous than I had been in a long time for a game. This game (Interlake/Sammamish) goes back years and years and years. It is awesome our team gets to celebrate a victory for another year.”
The Saints host Lakeside in a non-league contest at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Interlake High School in Bellevue. The Saints will look to keep their undefeated streak alive.