Melvin Miller blazed into the end zone and gave the Lakes High School football team a ray of hope.
Maybe the Lancers would offer some payback for last year’s loss to Eastside Catholic in the Tacoma Dome. Maybe they could knock off the two-time defending state champion, which has reached the state championship game each of the past four years.
Then the Eastside Catholic offense quenched all of that.
Specifically, tight end Hunter Bryant, the University of Washington commit who caught four passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns as the Crusaders scored 28 unanswered points on their way to a 57-24 victory on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
And for the 12th time in their past 16 state playoff appearances — the Lancers’ season ended at the hands of a King County school.
“Today wasn’t quite our day,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “They are a really good team over there, and there’s a reason why they are on top today.
“But I wouldn’t trade my guys for any team in the state. I love this group.”
So how was Eastside Catholic after Melvin Miller’s 62-yard touchdown run to open the game?
“We were pretty unfazed,” Crusaders coach Jeremy Thielbahr said. “Because we knew we were going to be explosive on offense. We knew we were going to score points today and we were going to be able to pick each other up.
“We had been running against that play all week. That’s one of their base plays.”
Melvin Miller, who his coach afterward called one of the best backs in Lakes history, ran for 15 yards on the first play of the game. On the next, he stutter-stepped in the back field before bouncing outside and exploding through a gap for the 62-yard TD run to give Lakes a 7-0 lead.
“I was amazed,” Melvin Miller said. “I had never done something like that against a great team like that. The sideline was so hyped.”
Eastside Catholic answered. First a 20-yard gain on third-and-6. Then a 45-yard pass to Bryant to the Lakes 1 — despite a defender draped all over him who was called for defensive pass interference.
Lakes’ offense didn’t sustain its rushing success. It averaged 1.6 yards per carry the rest of the first half and 2.5 for the rest of the game after those first two big carries.
“I just think up front the line of scrimmage — it always comes down to that in the playoffs,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “And I think their line had their way with our line at times.
“Our guys battled as hard as they could. But I think they controlled the line.”
Eastside Catholic converted on a fourth-and-2 on its second offensive possession. The next play Bryant caught a 32-yard touchdown pass — this time over two Lakes defenders.
“They got that 6-foot-5 beast out there — it’s really hard to match up with him,” Dave Miller said. “He’s just a big, physical guy. We have some guys who are good at getting the ball, too, but they just couldn’t quite get that high.”
“I train really hard,” Bryant said. “I expect myself to make plays like those.”
Eastside Catholic’s offense rolled — two more touchdowns the next two possessions. It led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter after taking a 34-7 lead on Lakes in last year’s state semifinals.
Lakes made it 28-14 when quarterback Jaylen Antoine, who Dave Miller said played his best game of the season, found Zarrion Hill for a 32-yard touchdown with 1:42 left in the half.
And finally, Lake had the momentum back.
Except Eastside Catholic quickly orchestrated a five-play touchdown drive, capped by freshman Michael Franklin’s 25-yard TD pass to Tyler Folkes with nine seconds left in the half.
The 40-point mercy rule went into effect when the Crusaders took a 57-17 lead with 2:05 in the third quarter.
But consider where Lakes (7-5) started — three losses in its first four games before winning six of its next seven to make the 3A state quarterfinals. The Lancers were one of three teams from the 3A Pierce County League to make the quarterfinals, though Lincoln lost to O’Dea on Friday and Bonney Lake lost to Kamiakin on Saturday.
“I told them I’m so proud of how they grew as a team and how they stayed together and worked hard,” Dave Miller said. “I love them. I just love them. It’s a great group of kids. Their improvement was amazing.
“This has been one of my favorite teams, no doubt.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 3 EASTSIDE CATHOLIC
L – Melvin Miller 62 run (Liam Bladow kick)
EC – Tyler Folkes 1 run (Donaven Lewis kick)
EC – Hunter Bryant 32 pass from Zach Lewis (Donaven Lewis kick)
EC – Gee Scott 4 pass from Zach Lewis (Donaven Lewis kick)
EC – Gee Scott 5 pass from Zach Lewis (Donaven Lewis kick)
L – Zarrion Hill 32 pass from Jaylen Antoine (Bladow kick)
EC – Folkes 25 pass from Michael Franklin (Donaven Lewis kick)
L – Bladow 29 field goal
EC – Bryant 15 pass from Zach Lewis (Donaven Lewis kick)
EC – Folkes 98 interception return (Donaven Lewis kick)
EC – Keenan Porter 54 run (Bryant pass from Zach Lewis)
L – John Reiten 31 pass from Antoine (Juan Aleman kick)
RUSHING – Lakes: Melvin Miller 10-94; Derrion Summers 4-28; Khalil Lewis 5-18. Eastside Catholic: Keenan Porter 2-101; Tyler Folkes 11-71; Zach Lewis 7-41.
PASSING – Lakes: Jaylen Antoine 18-28-1-227. Eastside Catholic: Zach Lewis 18-23-0-202; Michael Franklin 4-4-0-81.
RECEIVING – Daytona Comoza 2-51; Dedrian Milligan 3-46; John Reiten 2-41; Zarrion Hill 2-38; Tracey Reynolds 4-33; Melvin Miller 2-12; Cale Lindsay 1-8. Eastside Catholic: Hunter Bryant 4-105; Chris Lefau 6-87; Tyler Folkes 4-33; Marcus Stoebner 4-28.