Tigers offense erupts against Polar Bears
Seneca East gets big game from QB Foos
BELLEVUE — Seneca East got exactly what every school in the state wants after long summer workouts and grueling practices.
The Tigers put up 482 yards of offense and rolled to a 41-12 opening night win over Margaretta Thursday at Bellevue Athletic Field.
Seneca East junior quarterback Chase Foos shook off two first-quarter interceptions to complete 16 of 23 passes for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We did not play smart initially and we did not take care of the football, but man did our defense play great,” Seneca East coach Ed Phillips said. “We believe in our defense and we believe we are capable of really good things. Man did they show it tonight.”
Six-foot-3 senior running back Blaine Swartzmiller exploded for 152 yards on 15 carries including an 83-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter where he simply burst through the middle of the line and outran every other defender.
“That is a big boy and when you start getting late in the game, you got that big back and that wears on you,” Margaretta coach Todd Pooch said. “That is our goal and what we want to do to people.”
The Polar Bears did get to Foos in the first 12 minutes. It was on Seneca East’s second possession where a pass from Foos was tipped and intercepted by Margaretta’s James Weaver. He returned the ball to the 22-yard line, but the Tigers’ defense stood stiff.
Swartzmiller sacked Margaretta quarterback Nick Leibacher, a penalty hurt the Polar Bears, and two incomplete passes ended the drive with negativity yardage.
“We believe in ourselves and expect that of ourselves,” Phillips said. “That was huge because you are backed up and we talk about responding. We certainly responded and it gave us confidence.”
Weaver picked Foos for a second time on the ensuing drive, but the Polar Bears punted. After a first down took Seneca East past midfield, Foos hit D.J. Ruffing in stride down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. Tyler Turek added his first of five successful extra points for the 7-0 lead.
“That is the big ones we need to convert,” Pooch said of the first interception. “We won the turnover battle early. We convert on that and maybe we get a little momentum. In high school sports, momentum is everything. We did not capitalize and they came down and made a couple of big plays.”
Margaretta fumbled on its next drive and the Tigers covered 34 yards in four plays — the last a 6-yard rumble from Foos for the touchdown.
The Polar Bears showed their first sign of offensive life on the next drive. A 30-yard run by Brycten Hedden was Margaretta’s first first down, coming more than a minute into the second quarter. A personal foul added 15 yards and suddenly the Polar Bears were in the red zone.
Hedden picked up 11 more yards inside the 10-yard line before Seneca East again threatened to keep Margaretta scoreless. It was not until a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line play that saw Leibacher hit Mitch Raifsnider in the end zone. The two-point try was no good, but Seneca East led 13-6.
“Brycten has done a nice job for us this week,” Pooch said. “Our line did a nice job on the doubles. We just could not sustain stuff and that is Week 1.”
It did not take the Tigers — particularly Foos and Swartzmiller — long to respond. Swartzmiller picked up 10 yards on a run then caught a 24-yard pass from Foos, who then busted away for an 8-yard run. Foos completed a 13-yard pass to Ruffing and added the final 5 yards on a run for the touchdown and 20-6 lead.
“You don’t like interceptions but I wasn’t worried about him at all,” said Phillips of Foos, who completed eight straight passes at one point. “He came back and played outstanding.”
After Margaretta punted, Seneca East methodically moved down the field as the clock ticked down in the first half. Foos found Ruffing for passes of 13 and 16 yards. The 10-play drive ended when Swartzmiller scored from 5 yards out, giving the Tigers a 27-6 lead at halftime.
Seneca East added a score in the third quarter when Foos threw a bubble screen pass to Collan Martin, who shifted left and right before exploding up the middle for the 27-yard touchdown on fourth-and-8.
Margaretta’s best drive of the night came in the fourth quarter. The Polar Bears gained five first downs and went 83 yards in 14 plays. The final 25 yards were covered by Hedden, including 4 yards on the final play to score the touchdown.
“Hats off to coach Phillips. He has a great ball club this year,” Pooch said. “They picked up right where they left off from last year. They are a big, physical team, but we keep telling our kids that we want to take that next step and that is where we need to start.”
Hedden ran 21 times for 108 yards. Margaretta finished with just 160 yards of offense.
“We like to apply pressure and when we get a little rhythm and our guys get after it, we are pretty good at it,” Phillips said. “That was key. We knew coming in we had to make (Leibacher) nervous and make him run.”