With hands on their hips, players and coaches on the Cascade Christian football sideline stood helpless.
And after Alex Tyska’s 28-yard field-goal attempt stayed just inside the left upright, fourth-ranked Mount Baker ended the No. 1 Cougars’ bid for a fifth trip to the Class 1A state-title game in six years with a dramatic 31-28 overtime victory Saturday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome.
Mount Baker (11-1) advances to the state championship game for the first time in school history and will take on Freeman, a 28-20 semifinal winner over Cashmere, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Dome.
It was an uphill climb for the Cougars (11-1) from the start. They committed two first-quarter turnovers that Mount Baker cashed in on with touchdowns.
Twice, Cascade Christian faced two-touchdown deficits — the last at 28-14 on Izaiha Schwinden’s third short touchdown run with 11:20 remaining.
With the Cougars facing fourth-and-5 from their own 39 on the ensuing drive, coach Randy Davis rolled the dice and went for it. Jaelin Goldsmith completed a 14-yard pass to Marshall Coleman for a first down.
After that, they went right to the hurry-up offense. Suddenly yards weren’t difficult to come by.
“We got a lot more tired,” Goldsmith said, “but the sense of urgency kind of gave us a second wind.”
Goldsmith finished off the Cougars’ 11-play, 66-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, trimming Mount Baker’s lead to 28-21 with 8:01 to go.
The biggest X factor in the game belonged to the Mountaineers. Normally a strong, stout run-based wing-T offense, Mount Baker passed plenty behind quarterback Andrew Zender, converting big third and fourth downs.
“(Zender) has come a long way,” Davis said. “Their passing game hurt us a couple times. I was impressed he could read the defense and find the open guy.”
With Zender making plays running and passing, the Mountaineers were going to go for it on fourth-and-1 with more than 6 minutes remaining. But they were called for a false-start penalty and had to punt.
That is when Cascade Christian put together one of its most impressive scoring drives of the season, going 89 yards on 12 plays. Goldsmith was 3-for-3 on the drive.
And running back Hunter Austin’s 5-yard touchdown run with 1:39 to go tied it at 28.
Tyska’s 53-yard field-goal attempt at the end of regulation fell way short, and the teams were going to overtime.
“We really thought we were going to win,” Davis said. “They were tired, and we thought we could pound the ball on them.”
Under the WIAA’s Kansas tiebreaker overtime system, each team started at the opposing 25-yard line. Cascade Christian got the football first. But on third-and-5, Goldsmith’s swing pass to Robert Terhune in the right flat was snuffed by Travis Lindsey for no gain.
With regular kicker Andrei Dyson still hobbled by a high-ankle sprain, Davis opted to go for it on fourth down — and Goldsmith’s pass into the end zone intended for Jackie Wood was batted down by Joey Walton.
“People believing in each other — that is all that was,” Zender said.
Mount Baker ran four plays, all runs, to set up Tyska’s winning field goal.
“I was pretty confident in overtime, but not overconfident,” said Austin, a senior. “It is not always going to be a fairy-tale ending, but it was a great ride.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com @ManyHatsMilles