Down two touchdowns with less than four minutes to play, most teams would cash it in. But Bellarmine Prep pulled off some familiar playoff magic, rallying to score 17 points in the final three minutes – capped by a 20-yard field goal by Matthew Philichi with nine seconds remaining – for a 38-35 win at Newport on Nov. 16 in the 4A state playoffs.
“We’ve played a lot of games like this,” said Lions senior quarterback Lou Millie, referencing some hard-fought playoff victories in recent years. “This is just like usual for us. We’ve got a lot of heart, and we want to stay together as long as we can, so that’s why we play like this.”
The Lions trailed 35-21 after Newport quarterback J.P. Routen connected with tight end Drew Sample for a 54-yard touchdown pass off a play action with 11:13 to go in the game.
But Millie began the comeback effort two drives later, finding Garrett McKay – who finished with 14 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns – on a deep post rout for a 57-yard touchdown. That cut it to 35-27, after Philichi’s extra point was wide left.
The Lions forced a quick three-and-out, and a 10-yard punt gave Bellarmine Prep the ball at the Newport 35-yard line. Millie connected with McKay on a 27-yard pass, and Jamal Ervin scored from three yards out – his second touchdown of the game – on the next play. Millie then connected with Drew Griffin, who made an acrobatic catch to haul in the two-point conversion and tie it 35-35.
“They have realized that it doesn’t matter what is going on, just go hard,” said Bellarmine Prep head coach Tom Larsen. “They have bought into (the belief that) the scoreboard doesn’t tell you how to play, your heart does. And they did that.”
After stopping Newport on three plays the next drive, Millie tackled the Knights’ David Kim three yards short of a first down on a fake punt attempt, giving Bellarmine Prep the ball at Newport’s 37-yard line with under a minute left. He hit Griffin for a 24-yard strike to set up the game-winner by Philichi.
Newport had raced out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, as Routen hit Sample for a 51-yard touchdown on the Knights’ first drive and Conner Baumann exploded for touchdown runs of 53 and 54 yards. Routen finished 6-for-7 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and Baumann finished with 22 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns. But Bellarmine Prep limited Baumann to just nine carries for 29 yards in the second half.
“Mr. Baumann has our respect,” said Larsen. “Their team has our respect. We knew coming in it was going to be rough and tumble.”
The Lions struggled on the ground early, as Nathan Goltermann was limited to just nine carries for 49 yards. But Millie started to get the passing game going midway through the second quarter, connecting with McKay for a 14-yard touchdown to cut it to 21-7 with 5:18 to go until halftime. He connected with McKay for an 11-yard score on the Lions’ next drive to make it 21-14 with 1:49 until the break. Millie finished 20-for-27 for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
“The last couple games we’ve been pounding it and doing well with the run game,” Millie said. “We just switched it up, and the pass game worked too. We’re hitting on all cylinders the last couple weeks.”
Bellarmine Prep advances to host Bothell in the state quarterfinals on Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. at Mount Tahoma Stadium. The Lions and Cougars have faced off two of the last three years in the state playoffs.