There is presumably a glimmer of daylight to be found somewhere between the rock of Chiawana’s record-breaking running back, Austin Urlacher, and the hard place of its merciless defense.
A failure to capitalize on big-play scoring opportunites hastens the fade to black.
Graham-Kapowsin blew some early scoring chances and never found traction in a 28-12 loss to the defending state champion Riverhawks in a 4A state semifinal at Edgar Brown Stadium on Saturday. The Eagles’ history-making season ended with an 11-2 record and a first-ever trip to the state semifinals.
“They’re tough,” Graham-Kapowsin head coach Eric Kurle said of Chiawana (12-1). “You can’t get behind against them. You have to make some plays, and we didn’t.”
The Riverhawks advance to the state title game, which will be played Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m., at the Tacoma Dome against the winner of the other semifinal Saturday between Bothell and Newport.
Urlacher set the state’s 11-man, single-season rushing record on his penultimate carry, a 1-yard run to the brink of the goal line midway through the fourth quarter that gave him 2,775 yards rushing this season — one more yard than Capital’s Kai Van Sickle had in 12 games in 2012.
“He’s a great running back,” said Graham-Kapowsin senior Daniel Lorenz, who accounted for all of the Eagles’ scoring with 2- and 1-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. “He runs hard and makes great cuts.
“They’re a very physical team. We knew this would come down to who played more physical.”
Chiawana scored on the game’s opening drive and led 21-0 at halftime. The Eagles were never closer than two scores. But things may have unfolded differently if not for a crushing sequence on Graham-Kapowsin’s first possession. On 2nd-and-14 from midfield, Eagles quarterback Trevor Asbjornsen dropped back, waited in an airtight pocket and zipped a pass downfield for wide receiver Noah Bales, who had sprinted behind the Chiawana secondary on a skinny post.
But Bales was unable to haul in the pass — and a certain six points.
Asbjornsen threw the first of his three interceptions on the next play.
Those miscues loomed larger on the next series, which ended on another dropped pass that would have converted a first down and set the Eagles up inside the Chiawana 10.
It was simply an out-of-character performance in terms of execution. In addition to the three interceptions, the Eagles allowed five sacks, lost a fumble, and could not establish running back Shannon Edwards (17 carries, 57 yards) between the tackles.
“If everyone had played to his top performance, this would have been a different game,” said Lorenz. “We should have scored early. If we got another shot, maybe it would be a different outcome.”
There are no mulligans at this stage, however. Chiawana quarterback Logan Ellsworth had a pair of short rushing touchdowns in the first half and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Josh Wilson in the second quarter for the 21-0 halftime lead.
Lorenz pulled six points back with his first rushing touchdown in the fourth, but Urlacher put the game away — and his name in the record books — by rushing for every yard of a 7-play, 47-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth.
He finished with 33 carries for 206 yards.
Chiawana held the Eagles to 73 yards rushing. Asbjorsen was 11-of-25 passing for 154 yards and had good rapport with wide receiver Austin Ewell (four catches, 65 yards).
“This was the best season Graham-Kapowsin has ever had,” Lorenz said. “We made history. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my senior season any other way.”