No local game in recent memory had this kind of buildup and actually lived up to it, until Sept. 7 at Bellarmine's Memorial Field. New home side bleachers, 80-degree plus weather and talent galore had fans of both schools talking for weeks leading up to the game pitting Bellarmine Prep against Lakes. When it ended, no opinions were changed as the Lancers edged the Lions by a score of 42-38. They will be talking for several more weeks.
“Both teams played their hearts out,” said Lakes head coach Dave Miller. “I can't say enough about both teams’ efforts in a great setting for high school football.”
“I was excited to see what we were capable of doing against a great team and we just came up short,” said Bellarmine head coach Tom Larson.
The Lions fired the first salvo when quarterback Sefo Liufau drove his team 68 yards in six plays, and the payoff was a 10-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Chandler for a 7-0 Bellarmine lead. Lakes wasted no time getting the equalizer when Caleb Lyons took the ensuing kickoff and brought it back 100 yards to tie it.
Late in the first half with Bellarmine leading 21-14, a personal foul penalty on the Lions kept a Lancer drive alive at the Bellarmine 35-yard line. On the final play of the half, quarterback Rhys Gervais found Sammie Long open for a touchdown to make it 21-20.
Lakes struck first in the third quarter when they marched 68 yards in 12 plays, with Dominic Milton scoring from a yard out to give Lakes a 28-21 lead.
Back came the Lions. Starting at the Lancers’ 30-yard line, Lou Millie found the end zone from 11 yards out to tie it once again. Trailing 35-28 early in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-goal from the 18, Liufau found Garrett McKay for a score. The extra point tied it at 35.
“Sefo Liufau is one great quarterback. He and (Garrett) McKay kept us on our heels the whole second half,” said Miller.
There was more to come. Trailing 42-38 with just over a minute left and 66 yards from a win, Bellarmine kept this incredible drama going to the end. Four plays later they sat at the three-yard line with three seconds to play, but with the game hanging in the balance, Liufau just overshot his receiver and the jubilation began on the Lancers’ sideline.
“I had to come back after last week's sub-par performance and this week I limited my mistakes,” said Gervais. “It was a great win against a great team.”
The loss was hard to take for Bellarmine, who gained 471 yards on the night compared to the Lancers’ 381.
“This one will hurt for a while, but I'm proud of my team's effort tonight,” said Larson, who watched Liufau go 27-for-38 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. McKay led the Lions with 18 receptions for 227 of those yards and two scores.
“We executed well tonight but just came up a little bit short,” said McKay, the transfer from Gig Harbor. “This will be a tough one to swallow but we'll come back.”
Put this one in the archives for good.
CRUSADERS MARCH PAST EAGLES
Coming off of a stinging loss to Charles Wright the week before gave Tacoma Baptist coach Mark Smith the impression that there was a lot of room for improvement. Quarterback Taylor Martindale and running back Brandon Hughey would answer the call, combining for 357 yards of total offense to lead the Crusaders to a 44-21 win over the Life Christian Eagles on Sept. 8 at Curtis Viking Stadium in University Place.
“We certainly bounced back from the loss last week, and we had a real good week of practice leading up to this game,” said Smith. “We clicked really well on offense, and what can you say about the efforts from Hughey and Martindale.”
Tacoma Baptist wasted little time in getting on the board when Ben Cooksley blocked a Life Christian punt and recovered it in the end zone for a 6-0 lead. It would be a lead that they would never relinquish.
“We just could not establish any kind of offensive rhythm all night and we made some mistakes that young teams make,” said Eagles head coach Ross Hjelseth.
Trailing 22-7 late in the first half, Life Christian came up with a fumble recovery at the Crusaders’ 14-yard line but could not capitalize, and the Crusaders took that lead into the locker room at the half.
“We missed a big opportunity and the momentum we had was lost, and it hurt us in the second half,” said Hjelseth.
The Crusaders came out of the locker room on fire as Martindale scored on a seven-yard run. On their next possession Hughey would take it in from a yard out, with Martindale taking it in for the two-point conversion to extend the lead to 36-7.
“We came out and played much better overall, especially on defense in the second half,” said Smith. “The offense did a good job of maintaining their offensive rhythm for the remainder of the game, too.”
There was no quit on the Eagles’ part, as they would trim the Crusader lead to 36-21 with a late-third and an early-fourth quarter score, but Baptist would close it out late to win going away. “Overall I was pleased,” said Smith of his team's performance. “We have to keep playing at this high of a level to stay in the playoff race and we'll have a shot at the postseason.”
“We'll learn from this experience,” said Hjelseth, who added these young kids will “grow and learn from this and build each and every week from here out. We will get better.”
For blog updates on this weekend’s featured games visit The Daily Mash-Up at http://www.tacomaweekly.com/dailymashup.