KENT – Tahoma football coach Tony Davis is known for his no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts approach. The Bears’ coach prefers to run the ball and take his chances on defense.
But that was before the 2012 season and a personnel assessment Davis and his coaching staff to opt for an up-tempo, spread offense starting in 2012.
The move is providing results almost two seasons later.
Senior quarterback Shane Nelson threw for 347 yards on 22-of-36 passing and DeShon Williams caught nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as Tahoma knocked off Kentwood 26-14 in an SPSL 4A North Division game at French Field.
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The Bears’ defense was stingy with the exception of two big plays. Offensively, the Bears diced the Conquerors’ defense with timely drives and big plays of their own.
“The former math teacher in me told me this would create more opportunities and it’s about the space,” said Davis. “This was joint decision. This allows us to get out in space with some athletic kids. This is funner. It’s more fun and success is fun. It helps when you’ve got a Shane Nelson throwing the ball and a guy like DeShon Williams catching it.”
The Bears (5-2 overall, 4-2 league) erased a four-game losing streak to Kentwood (5-2, 5-1) and improved its position in the playoff chase.
“We needed a game like this to overcome those two losses,” Davis said. “We really shot ourselves in the foot earlier in the year when we had our two blips. I still think we left some points on the board. One of the biggest differences from where we were a year ago to where we are now is where our kids are on defense.”
The Bears moved the ball all night, giving the defense time to rest.
Tahoma receiver Denham Patricelli hauled in eight balls for 138 yards and the Bears outgained the Conquerors 452 yards to 280 in total offense.
The Conquerors were coming off their first loss of the season — a 34-33 decision to Rogers of Puyallup last week — after starting 5-0 and have now have lost two in a row. Receiver Terrence Grady caught seven passes from 203 yards and two touchdowns — strikes of 79 and 65 yards — as the Conks struggled on offense most of the night.
As time expired in the first half, Nelson rolled out right and fired deep to the end zone and the 6-foot-3 Williams leapt in front of a wall of defenders to give the Bears a 14-7 lead. Williams hauled in the desperation pass after getting knocked out-of-bounds and coming back into play in front of the end zone for the 33-yard scoring play.
Kentwood knotted the score at 14-14 on the second big hookup from Brian Campbell to Grady, this time on slant play that turned into a 65-yard touchdown pass play with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
The Bears responded to take a 20-14 advantage on Jeremy Woods’ 3-yard touchdown burst up the middle with 1:10 left in the third. Tahoma’s response came in the form of a 13-play, 65-yard march that consumed 3:10. Woods, a junior, led the Bears with 77 yards rushing and the TD on 20 carries and senior Joe Donahue added 65 yards and a TD on 15 rushes.
Williams scored on a 14-yard slant from Nelson with 5:59 left in the game for a 26-14 cushion. The Bears’ two-point conversion pass failed.
Tahoma went in front 7-0 on Donahue’s 1-yard touchdown plunge under the pile with 3:36 left to go in the first quarter.
Tahoma kicker Evan Greenwood missed the second of two field-goal attempts — 34-yarder — with 4:16 left before halftime. Two plays and 55 seconds later, Kentwood wide receiver Grady got behind the Bears’ defense for a 79-yard touchdown pass from Campbell to tie the game at 7-7.
Tahoma dominated the first half statistically, but needed the last-ditch pass as time expired. Nelson completed 12 of 18 passes for 176 yards and one TD in the first half.
Campbell finished 12 of 26 passing for 238 yards, two TDs and one interception.
Tahoma has won three games in a row since suffering a 34-14 loss to Auburn on Sept. 27.
Kentwood beat Tahoma 35-13 last season on Oct. 12 for its fourth consecutive win in the series with their closest rival, which is about 2.4 miles apart. The Bears last win was a 28-14 triumph on Sept. 18, 2008 at French Field.