A few hours after the space-age, high-voltage Class 4A semifinalists took center stage, football returned to its rugged roots in the 4A nightcap Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Four yards and a cloud of dust? That would be too kind a description. It was like two John Deere tractors smacking into each other for the better part of 48 minutes.
But in the end, only one team advanced to its first state title game – and it was third-ranked Bellarmine Prep, courtesy of a 21-19 victory over Auburn.
The Lions will face defending champion and No. 1 Skyline – a 58-21 winner over No. 4 Camas in a game that feature more than 1,000 yards of offense – for the state title at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Bellarmine Prep (12-1) finished the game on a 15-play drive that ate up the final 6 minutes, 27 seconds. Eleven of the plays were Lou Millie runs – and the junior made sure the Trojans would never touch the football again.
“I loved that,” Millie said.
Three previous times – in 1982, ’83 and 2010 – the Lions played in the semifinal but came up short. Not against Auburn, even though they were held to 268 total yards.
“That is our style and the types of teams we both are,” Auburn coach Gordon Elliott said. “There are different ways of playing football – and teams 100 years ago won with our styles.”
Auburn (10-3), the SPSL North runner-up, matched Bellarmine Prep in the touchdown department, and tallied the first score on Harold Lee’s 1-yard run 4:51 into the game. But the Trojans missed the PAT kick, and could never catch up.
Yet, even though the Lions led at halftime, 14-6, after a Sefo Liufau 1-yard touchdown run and his 60-yard scoring strike to Drew Griffin, Auburn was doing what it wanted. It ran 35 plays to the Lions’ 18. And the ball stayed in the Trojans’ hands for nearly 171/2 minutes.
Midway through the third quarter, the physical punishment began taking its toll – starting with Jacob Waldo’s 38-yard touchdown scamper for the Trojans that cut their deficit to 14-12.
Auburn tried for a two-point conversion run, but Darnell Hagans was stopped in his tracks by Lions linebacker Nick Dionas.
Then came the one scoring play with any finesse to it. On a rollout, Liufau hit receiver Garrett McKay in the right flat. McKay stepped to his side to avoid an oncoming collision with Lee, and once he regained his footing, he darted up the seam for a 21-yard TD catch with 8:31 to go.
“I’ve been real flexible like that my entire life,” McKay said.
Auburn would not go away, and on its next drive, Hagans took off on a right sweep and went untouched 70 yards for the touchdown, and the Lions’ lead was 21-19 with 61/2 minutes remaining.
Starting from its own 27, Bellarmine Prep ran many plays between left guard and left tackle with Millie. And when the Lions faced a fourth-and-6 with 1:44 to go, Liufau went right back to McKay in the right flat, and he got underneath Hagans for a 7-yard catch and a first down.
Two plays later, Millie rumbled 12 yards up the gut for a final first down – his 123rd rushing yard of the night – and the Lions had their title date against Skyline.
“I am speechless,” Millie said, worn out but smiling. “It was an ugly game. But a win is a win.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442