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Originally published November 1, 2013 at 10:57 PM | Page modified November 1, 2013 at 11:01 PM

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Tahoma earns playoff berth with 21-13 win over Thomas Jefferson

The Bears earned the SPSL 4A North’s No. 3 seed with the win.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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MAPLE VALLEY – The Tahoma Bears had plenty to play for Friday night at Maxwell Stadium.

It was senior night and homecoming all wrapped in one. And neither mattered much to sophomore Michael Clausen.

“This wasn’t a homecoming or senior-night game, this was a playoff game for us,” the sophomore said. “We had to fight for it.”

And with Clausen leading a fired-up defense, the Bears won the do-or-die battle with Jefferson, 21-13, to land a playoff spot. They advance to the round of 32 as the No. 3 seed out of the SPSL 4A North. Jefferson also managed to qualify — for only the second time in school history — thanks to Auburn Riverside’s 20-7 victory over Auburn.

Tahoma, Jefferson and Auburn all tied for third at 5-3, but Tahoma owns the power-point tiebreaker as the only one of the three to beat Kentwood, which is the No. 1 seed. And Jefferson won head-to-head with Auburn, earning the fourth and final spot. The Raiders (5-4 overall) will face second-ranked Skyline.

Tahoma (6-3) gets No. 8 Gig Harbor, which lost to Bellarmine Prep on Friday.

Had the Bears lost, they would be the ones staying home — but that was never in their thought process, according to senior quarterback Shane Nelson.

“We knew it would be a dogfight, because they’re a good team, but we knew we knew we weren’t coming out with a loss,” he said.

Tahoma won despite Nelson’s season-low 128 yards passing — less than half his average. Jefferson showed why it leads the league in defense, but the Bears were the ones playing with their ears pinned back in this one.

“We were out of sync on offense, but our defense really picked up the slack,” said Nelson, who completed only 12 of 29 passes.

Tahoma hounded TJ quarterback Niko DeLaCruz, sacking him seven times. Clausen had 3½ of those for a minus-26 yards.

“He’s a freak athlete,” Nelson said.

Jefferson coach Dean Peak said DeLaCruz reinjured his ankle early in the game and was not as mobile as usual. The Raiders then lost running back Tyrell Williams, who scored the game’s first touchdown.

“We kind of got taken out of our game on offense,” Peck said.

The Raiders took advantage of superior field position early. They drove 46 yards in 10 plays on their second possession to get on the scoreboard with Williams going in from the 1 with 3:04 left in the first quarter.

But their next possession ended when O.J. Jenkins picked off a DeLaCruz pass in the end zone. The Bears then turned around and went the distance to pull even.

Nelson’s lone TD pass, a 14-yarder to Denham Patrichelli, gave the Bears the lead with 7:25 left in the third quarter, and Joe Donahue added a much-needed insurance touchdown on a 1-yard run later in the quarter as they went up 21-7.

That drive was kept alive when a facemask penalty negated a fumble at the end of a nifty 34-yard run by Woods. Tahoma retained possession, and the penalty took the ball to the 12.

Jefferson rallied with a 2-yard TD run by Grayson with 7:43 left to play, but the PAT was blocked. That score was set up by a 33-yard halfback pass from Grayson to Joshua Coleman.

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