Tides win final regular-season game against River Ridge, stay alive in playoffs

Posted on October 30th, 2021 By:

UPDATE: South Sound Conference officials assigned third place to Gig Harbor based on previous tiebreaker criteria. Central Kitsap will host Timberline in a two-team mini-tiebreaker Tuesday at 7 p.m. for fourth and final seed into playoffs.

Entering its final regular-season football game against River Ridge Friday, Gig Harbor knew what it had to do — win. The Tides did just that. Executing on both sides of the ball, they took down the Hawks 28-6 and secured a spot in a mini-playoff Tuesday.

Gig Harbor's Will Landram tosses a pass.

Gig Harbor’s Will Landram tosses a pass. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson

Gig Harbor and River Ridge exchanged touchdowns on their opening drives, but that would be the only score the tough, well-prepared Tides defense would allow.

“After (River Ridge) scored their first touchdown on the opening drive, our defense really tightened up after that,” Tides head coach George Fairhart said. “We were able to get the passing game going and that, along with the good defense, was the story the rest of the game.”

Gig Harbor's Cole Rushforth is tackled while reaching for a pass.

Gig Harbor’s Cole Rushforth is tackled while reaching for a pass. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson

Although the Tides had little success running the ball, the passing game was wide open with quarterback Will Landram at the controls. In the first half, the junior completed 16 of 26 throws for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

Hudson Cedarland, considered one of the top all-around players in the state, caught four passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Cole Rushforth added five catches for 104 yards before the break, and Parker Born added a TD.

“We were able to throw the ball early. They were playing a cover zero (man-to-man defense) and I just had to throw the ball and let my guys run under it,” Landram said.

Gig Harbor' Hudson Cedarland hauls in a pass.

Gig Harbor’ Hudson Cedarland hauls in a pass. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson

Gig Harbor’s defense allowed just 104 yards — 74 on the ground and 30 passing — in the first half to help the Tides to a 21-6 lead. Cedarland said the Tides knew River Ridge was a run-heavy team, with the occasional pass, and were well prepared.

“We practiced getting ready for them all week, and we knew if we executed we would be able to shut them down,” he said.

The second half was much the same story — tough defense and executing short passes.

Gig Harbor defenders surround a River Ridge ball carrier.

Gig Harbor defenders surround a River Ridge ball carrier. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson

In the third quarter, Born made a circus catch. An ensuing roughing-the-passer penalty put the Tides in the red zone. Then Rushford scored on a fake screen play from 13 yards out.

“That was great to see (Rushford) have a big night on senior night,” Cedarland said.

The defense kept River Ridge at bay the rest of the game. Landram threw a late interception that would have given the Hawks a chance, but the Tides forced a fumble to regain possession and ran out the clock.

The Tides finished the regular season 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the South Sound 3A League, good enough for a three-way tie for the third and fourth playoff seeds. Gig Harbor and Timberline both finished 4-3 and Central came in at 3-2, missing games due to COVID-19. They all went 1-1 against one another.

Gig Harbor's Benjamin Stevens goes up for a catch.

Gig Harbor’s Benjamin Stevens goes up for a catch. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson

The league decided to play a “Kansas City shootout” mini-playoff in which teams will be guaranteed at least two possessions from the opponent’s 25-yard line to determine which two advance to the postseason. It will be held Tuesday at Central Kitsap. Details are being worked out.

“Our mindset is just one game at a time,” Cedarland said. “We are capable of winning. It is just a matter of putting the pieces together.”