Having seen a team that ran the veer offense the week prior in Gonzaga Prep, the Bellarmine Prep Lions at least had an idea of what they might see on Nov. 24. The Auburn Trojans also brought a myriad of looks to their offensive approach, which helped them prepare to a degree. Despite giving up 314 yards of offense, the Lions limited Auburn’s number of big plays – while coming up with many of their own – and held on for a 21-19 win in the state 4A semifinals at the Tacoma Dome, as they await defending champ Skyline and quarterback Max Browne on Dec. 1 at the Dome. “Credit the team for believing in each other,” said Lions head coach Tom Larsen. “It was a great win.” The Trojans gave the Lions an early preview of what they were to see for the rest of the night with a 10-play, 64-yard drive for an early 6-0 lead on a one-yard run by Harold Lee. As they have been doing all season long, the Lions responded with a long drive themselves – this one covering 79 yards in nine plays – culminated by a one-yard sneak from Sefo Liufau with 3:20 left in the first quarter for a 7-6 lead. Both defenses took over in the second quarter, but there was one exception – a 66-yard touchdown strike from Liufau to Drew Griffin that gave Bellarmine a 14-6 lead at halftime.
“We saw the play opening up and Sefo put it right on me,” said Griffin. It was a breakthrough for the Lions, as their offense had gone three-and-out in four of the previous five possessions. Meanwhile, the Trojans’ offense got back into gear as Jacob Waldo scampered 38 yards into the end zone to cut the Lions’ lead to 14-12 midway through the third quarter. Threatened with surrendering the lead again, Bellarmine responded in the fourth quarter when Liufau hit Garrett McKay for a 21-yard touchdown and a 21-12 lead. But before fans could find their seat again, the Trojans’ Darnell Hagans found a crease and sprinted 70 yards for the score and the deficit was again cut to two with 6:27 left to play. But Liufau led the Lions on a 12-play, 66-yard drive – with Bellarmine converting on three third-down conversions – to run out the clock and send the Lions to their first state championship game since 1928. “It was tough, and we had to stay disciplined against that offense,” said linebacker Jacob Salazar. “I’m so excited and can’t wait for next Saturday night. Let’s get to work.” “This is a testament to the great community we have at Bellarmine Prep, and the excitement is going to be unbelievable on campus all week long,” Larsen added.