Too many turnovers and too much Ross Bowers doomed the Newport of Bellevue football team against top-ranked Bothell on Saturday.
Bowers was 12 of 15 for 172 yards and three touchdowns and No. 10 Newport fumbled four times, each leading to a Bothell score, as the Cougars pulled away for a 37-19 victory to advance to the Class 4A state championship.
“It’s a great feeling. This is something we experienced in the eighth grade (when Bothell lost to Skyline in the state semifinals) but that was a long time ago,” said Bowers, who is committed to Cal. It’s Bothell’s first state title appearance since making it in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007.
“We’ve been working so hard. We came into the season battling and grinding and here we are.”
Bothell will face reigning state champ Chiawana of Pasco, which beat Graham-Kapowsin, 28-12, earlier in the day, when they meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Newport dug itself into a hole early with those turnovers. Its first two drives resulted in two fumbles and two Bothell touchdowns.
Newport running back Paul Wells fumbled on the Knights’ second play of the game and Cole Ford jumped on it for Bothell. Five plays later, Damani St. John-Watkins ran for a 2-yard touchdown.
Newport was moving the ball steadily on the ground, punishing Bothell through its wishbone offense, but Bothell’s Miles Lockett hit quarterback Jordan Sanberg as he was trying to pitch it, and Jordan Baker picked it up and ran it 37 yards for another first-quarter touchdown for the Cougars.
“Can you believe that?” Bowers said of Bothell’s defense forcing fumbles. “That’s crazy. You could take away our offense and we might not be undefeated, but we’d be pretty good just by the points they score.”
But Newport charged into the end zone its next drive to cut the score to 13-7. And the snap on Bothell’s next play was too high for Bowers, and it sailed over his head. This time, Newport recovered.
Two plays later, Thomas Day ran it from 5 yards out, but Hunter Hahnemann, the son of Seattle Sounders FC backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, missed the extra point and the game was tied at 13.
Newport scored another touchdown on its first possession out of halftime on Day’s 26-yard run. Hahnemann missed the extra point, so Newport trailed, 20-19, and that was as close as the Knights got.
Bowers, who hopes to run Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense in the near future, made the plays Bothell needed from there. He hooked up with trusty wide receiver Dayzell Wilson on a fade route for a 16-yard TD pass on the ensuing drive.
After Newport fumbled the kick return, Bothell got a 39-yard field goal from Steve Weedin. Newport fumbled, again, and Bowers connected with Wilson, again, on a TD pass — this one from 41 yards out.
“Turnovers. That was the difference in the game,” said Wells, who rushed for 130 yards on 23 carries. “We thought we were the better team. … we knew we could beat them, but the turnovers changed it.”
Bowers’ final TD pass put the game out of reach, with Bothell ahead, 37-19. The Cougars advanced to the state title despite losing KingCo offensive MVP and co-defensive MVP Sam McPherson to a season-ending ACL injury. Bowers wore McPherson’s number for the second consecutive week, throwing for more than 300 yards with it against Bellarmine Prep in the quarterfinals, while McPherson stood on the sideline with crutches wearing Bowers’ No. 4.
“I try not to look down, but when I do, I just get happy. I think I can run all over people,” said Bowers, who said he’s just glad he isn’t watching this year’s state title game on TV again. “But I’m too slow.
“It’s just a great feeling for me personally because I know we gave (McPherson) one more chance to win a title.”