Much was made of the build up to the 2012 4A championship game, such as the fact that it was the first time a Tacoma team had appeared in a state title game since Wilson lost to Pasco 17-0 in 1998. This would also be Bellarmine Prep’s first appearance in the title game since 1928.
But what was lost in the pregame excitement was the road this year’s version of the Lions took to get to this point. A nail-biting five-point win over Bothell in the first round, a last-second Matt Philichi 25-yard field goal to beat Gonzaga Prep in Spokane and a thrilling two-point win over Auburn in the semis all led the Lions to the finals. The anticipated quarterback duel between Skyline’s Max Browne and Sefo Liufau took place in the finals, but Bellarmine ultimately could not overcome a large first-quarter deficit as the Spartans defeated the Lions by a score of 49-24 to defend their 4A state title on Dec. 1 at the Tacoma Dome.
“It was a hard way to end it, but give all the credit to a very good Skyline team,” said Bellarmine head coach Tom Larsen.
Skyline limited running back Lou Millie to just 15 yards on the ground, and Max Browne directed a near flawless performance – throwing for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns – as the Spartans would find the end zone on their first four possessions and never look back. Liufau did his best to try and rally his teammates, throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns without the benefit of a ground attack, nearly matching Browne. Liufau was not without help, as Garrett McKay, Drew Griffin, and Calvin Chandler combined for 31 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
When all was said and done, Larsen reflected on the season that was. “It will be tough saying goodbye to all these seniors who laid such a great foundation here the last four years,” he said.
While Bellarmine left the Dome with heavy hearts and were greeted with a loud ovation from parents upon their return to campus, the four team captains gave their thoughts on their careers the last four years on the hill.
“I’ve been very blessed and thankful for the opportunity to play and be educated here, it was an incredible journey that I will never forget,” said Liufau.
“I am honored to be part of this program and to be a part of this group of guys I’ve been with since fifth grade little Lions football,” added Kevin Kors.
“It was great to play with these guys for the last four years, and I would not trade it for anything,” said Michael Ota. “I will remember it for the rest of my life.”
“We’re a great family and will remain one forever,” said Calvin Chandler. “Lion Pride football is a great experience, and I would never trade any other football experience for it.”