KENNEWICK — When it comes to playing championship football, few teams in Washington can match the credentials Tumwater and Prosser brought with them into Saturday’s Class 2A state semifinal game at Lampson Stadium.
The Thunderbirds have won five state titles since 1987, and the Mustangs from Prosser have four since 1992 – and both teams have won more than 68 percent of their playoff games.
So, Tumwater’s 35-21 win provides some solid evidence what to expect when the Thunderbirds take on Lynden in the state championship game in the Tacoma Dome this Saturday.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten them,” a pleased Tumwater coach Sid Otton said as his team celebrated on the Lampson Stadium turf. “It’s nice to come over here and get a win. The travel is not a problem, if you win.”
The Thunderbirds (11-1) won the game with a formula that has worked well all season: stop the opposition when they get close to the end zone and run the ball through and around the other team’s defense the rest of the time.
“Our defense sure did bend,” said Otton, whose team forced five Prosser turnovers and limited the explosive Mustangs to a single second-half touchdown. “And we thought we could run our wing-T as long as we executed and blocked it.”
Tumwater ran the wing-T to near perfection against a Prosser team that has been tough against the run this season. With junior Christian Cummings leading the way with 198 yards on 13 carries, the Thunderbirds piled up 313 rushing yards.
Senior speedster Andrew Brown, The Olympian’s All-Area player of the year, added 60 yards on 13 carries, and sophomore Tyrus Snow chipped in 47 yards on nine carries.
“We’ve got some speed,” Otton said. “We especially like to give 24 (Brown) a chance to run around some.”
Prosser jumped on top with a 61-yard drive capped by Bubba Frank’s 2-yard run with 5:52 left in the first quarter.
Tumwater answered 41/2 minutes later with a 65-yard scoring drive. Brown tied the game with an 11-yard touchdown run.
The teams traded scores in the second quarter. Tumwater took a 14-7 lead when junior quarterback Jayden Croft hit Brown with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 5:23 left before halftime. It was the only pass Croft would throw in the first half, and the T-Birds threw only four passes in the game.
Prosser tied the score when Ryan Fassler hit Sterling Clark with a 23-yard TD pass 1:10 later.
Tumwater’s next score came after a bizarre exchange of punts in the third quarter that resulted in the Thunderbirds getting possession on the Prosser 27.
With Tumwater facing a fourth-and-7 from its own 27, Elijah Hill boomed a 53-yarder that rolled dead on the Prosser 22.
The Mustangs managed 2 yards in three plays, but the subsequent punt netted 3 yards and the Thunderbirds had first-and-10 on the Mustangs’ 27.
Five plays later, Cummings raced 15 yards, breaking two tackles near the goal line, to score with 4:54 left in the third quarter. Tumwater missed the extra point for a 20-14 lead.
Prosser’s answered quickly when Frank took a lateral from Danny Raap after a short pass completion and raced 58 yards give the Mustangs their last lead – 21-20 – with 3:47 left in the third period.
Tumwater then grabbed lead for good with a textbook 60-yard, nine-play drive, kept alive by a pass-interference penalty on fourth-and-7. Snow capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left in the third quarter. Croft hit Jaimie Bryant with a short pass for the two-point conversion
Tumwater’s final score was set up by the fourth of Prosser’s five turnovers, a fumbled punt that set the Thunderbirds up on the Prosser 27. Cummings scored on the next play.
Prosser’s last chance ended at the end of a 77-yard drive with Fassler’s pass on fourth-and–goal from the 4 sailing over Raap’s head in the end zone.