SEASIDE - It's been a long three years for the Seaside varsity football program.
They all know the numbers: a 1-29 overall record from 2007 to 2009, 2-18 in the Cowapa League since 2006, with a losing streak that reached 26 games at one point ...
"We've got quite a load to get off our back," said Seaside coach Stubby Lyons, before the 2010 season began. "It's like an 800-pound ugly gorilla that we're carrying around."
Well, the Gulls just shook the gorilla Friday night. The Seaside football "recession" is officially over.
At night's end, the Gulls were celebrating their first victory over Tillamook since 2005, with a well-deserved 36-28 Homecoming win over the Cheesemakers at Broadway Field.
"Our kids have been up and down, but they did what they needed to do and hung on tonight," Lyons said.
The victory gives Seaside a 1-1 league record, 3-3 overall. In addition, the Gulls may have also locked up their first post-season berth since '05.
The Gulls are tied for third in the Cowapa with Yamhill-Carlton, one game up on Scappoose and Tillamook (both 0-2), with three games left.
Granted, with the top five Cowapa teams going to the playoffs, it will be hard not to make the post-season this year.
But hey, a playoff berth is a playoff berth.
"I know we still have to play the big three (Banks, Astoria, Scappoose), but who knows?" Lyons said. "It's kind of nice to know that no matter what happens, we're not going to be the last team in the league this year. And five get to go to the playoffs. Four or five months ago, nobody thought we'd have a chance, but our kids have been getting better."
So has Lyons, but he had to sit this one out, literally. With an injured leg suffered in a sideline collision the week before against Yamhill-Carlton, Lyons listened to most of the game on the radio from home, before arriving for the final few minutes.
"I got down here early, but I didn't want to draw attention to me," he said. "The kids were playing well. It's hard to pick it all up off the radio, but they hung on well and didn't give up."
His assistant coaches shared the coaching duties Friday.
The Cheesemakers did their part to help - from their eight penalties for 90 yards in the first half alone, to their final offensive play of the night. Trailing by eight points with 21 seconds left, quarterback Grant Slibsager spiked the ball to stop the clock - only it was fourth down, and the Mooks' rally came up short.
The Gulls held a 36-14 lead with 10:48 left, only to watch Tillamook score twice to close within 36-28.
"We had our backup defense in because we had a big lead, and (Tillamook) had those two screen plays that really killed us," said Seaside's Brook Johnson. "But once we put the first unit back in, we stepped up and stopped them."
Johnson, on the other hand, could not be stopped.
The senior tailback/workhorse rushed for 266 yards on 34 carries, with four touchdowns.
Seaside's first score of the night was a 50-yard bomb from Myls Miller to Jon Perry, but the next four belonged to Johnson.
On the Gulls' second possession of the second quarter, Johnson carried five times on a nine-play, 65-yard drive, Johnson capping the march with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Tillamook scored on its ensuing drive to take the lead, then forced a three-and-out for the Gulls on their next possession.
But the Mooks fumbled on the punt return, and the ball was scooped up by Seaside's Charles Hawes, who returned it to the Tillamook 5-yard line.
One play later, Johnson broke several tackles at the line and scored to tie the game at 14-14 at halftime.
"The first quarter they really stopped our run game, and we couldn't get anything going," Johnson said. "But the second quarter we ran some counters and sweeps, and we busted free. Then the second half we really took it to 'em."
Hawes picked off a Tillamook pass late in the third quarter, and the Gulls ended the third period and started the fourth with a six-play drive that covered 69 yards.
Most of it, again, by Johnson, who worked his way through the Tillamook defense for a 53-yard scoring run, and the Gulls never trailed again.
More Mook blunders - Tillamook fumbled on its next play from scrimmage, and Johnson cashed in on the very next play with a 25-yard scoring run. Two touchdowns in 23 seconds finally broke the Cheesemakers, Johnson said.
"The back-to-back touchdowns really drained them," said Johnson, who added that this was Seaside's biggest win in recent memory.
"Definitely. We stayed together, we stayed calm and confident and got the win," he said. "We were all focused and ready to go. We ran a lot on Monday and Tuesday, and I think it paid off."
Lyons said, "they haven't liked it (the running), but I think we've done a good job of getting our kids in shape.
"It's just a real great victory for Seaside," he said. "I don't know the last time we won a Homecoming game, and I don't know the last time we beat Tillamook here (2000, 27-20).
"Those are kind of big deals. Plus it's our third win of the season, and that's a big deal for us, considering what's happened the last few years."
Seaside finished with 364 yards in total offense, with 266 belonging to Johnson.
"That's a pretty good effort," Lyons said. "He's in good shape. With the teams we have in our league, we have to be in good shape."
Meanwhile, Johnson is making the most of his final year, averaging 25 to 30 carries per game.
"My first two years of high school, I never started at running back," he said. "When I finally got my chance, I took advantage of it. My line did really good, too.
"As the game goes on, I'm in pretty good condition, and I get stronger as I get more carries. My line gets more into it, they get more focused and pumped."
Miller had two carries for 20 yards, and completed two passes (both to Perry) for 54 yards.
Junior David Almaguer was Tillamook's workhorse back, running for 130 yards on 19 carries, with two catches for 70 yards. He scored twice on middle screens, the second covering 58 yards.
But the Cheesemakers shot themselves in the foot one too many times, with three turnovers in addition to their 13 penalties for 115 yards.
With the Gulls now scheduled to play Banks, Astoria and Scappoose over the next three weeks, Seaside will likely need a lot more than Johnson.
"I guess we'll find out how good we are somewhere down the road," Lyons said. "We felt we had a chance last week (against Yamhill), and made too many mistakes. We felt we would have one more chance to do something tonight. This was a crucial game for us."
Johnson added, "we haven't had great success in the past, but it's been a great year for us so far."
Tillamook 0 14 0 14-28
Seaside 0 22 0 14-36
Til: Grant Slibsager 1 run (Timber Klahn run) 11:54
Sea: Jon Perry 50 pass from Myls Miller (Brook Johnson run) 9:56
Sea: Johnson 6 run (Kyle Hague kick) 3:23
Til: Klahn 20 run (kick blocked) 1:32
Sea: Johnson 5 run (Hague kick) :44
Sea: Johnson 53 run (kick fail) 11:11
Sea: Johnson 25 run (Miller run) 10:48
Til: David Almaguer 12 pass from Slibsager (run fail) 6:24
Til: Almaguer 58 pass from Slibsager (Brian Mallett from Slibsager) 2:43
Rushing: Almaguer 19-130, Klahn 5-36, Kalua 4-36, Hansen 6-12, Slibsager 5-(-28). Passing: Slibsager 8-23-129-1. Receiving: Almaguer 2-70, Cooley 2-16, Hansen 2-9, O.Fountain 1-26, Klahn 1-8.
Rushing: Johnson 34-266, Miller 3-20, Owen 4-11, Klemp 3-8, Pittard 1-5, Perry 6-0. Passing: Miller 2-6-54-0. Receiving: Perry 2-54.