It reminded Franklin Pierce High School football coach Mickey Ahrens, the 1996 graduate of Eastside Catholic, of the final game of his own high school football career.
This, too, was a state playoff game the Cardinals entered believing they were going to win. Only instead of winning, they had to leave only getting to believe they should have.
Sixth-ranked Franklin Pierce’s season ended in the first round of the 2A state playoffs with a 44-41 loss against West Valley of Spokane on Saturday at Franklin Pierce Stadium.
“This last day of the season – it’s the worst day of the year for me, every year,” Ahrens said. “I still remember the feeling of playing my last high school football game. It was one of the worst feelings. I hate looking at their faces when they know the season is over.”
Even with 3.6 seconds remaining, when West Valley had the ball at its own 42 facing fourth down, the Cardinals weren’t so sure their season was over.
Then quarterback Hunter Wright hiked the snap and simply ran 24 yards backward and slid to the turf as the clock hit zero.
“I just don’t want it to be over,” Franklin Pierce senior quarterback Willie Patterson said.
West Valley regained the lead when Wright plunged into the end zone from one yard out with 3:06 remaining.
But the Cardinals had all their time outs and Patterson had thrown for 250 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 126 yards and two touchdowns.
The two-time 2A SPSL MVP tossed deep along the right sideline for Mason Starling – who had already caught two tipped passes, including one for a 65-yard touchdown with 11.2 seconds left in the first half. But West Valley’s Drake Ferguson was stride-for-stride with Starling and intercepted it at the Eagles’ 32.
“I thought I put enough air on it so he could make a play for the ball,” Patterson said. “I just knew that I got to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands. No matter what.”
Franklin Pierce (9-2) had won nine consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Tumwater, which had ended the Cardinals’ season in the first round of the 2A state playoffs last year.
West Valley jumped to a 21-7 lead Wright hit Collin Sather for a 35-yard TD, then a 73-yard TD before Wright scored on a four-yard run. The last TD was set up because Braxton Swenson, a defensive end, jumped and picked off a Patterson pass and almost returned it for a touchdown.
Wright completed 19 of 25 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while Sather caught five passes for 157 yards.
But Franklin Pierce rallied back, taking a 28-27 halftime lead when Patterson hit Starling on that 65-yard TD pass, which was tipped into the air by a defender before Starling grabbed it.
That play came just after West Valley got a 30-yard TD pass with 25.5 seconds left in the first half. It looked like Patterson, playing as a defensive back, had picked off the jump ball in the end zone, but the official ruled that the receiver, Dylan Levno, had mutual possession before they hit the ground.
West Valley advances to face Lynden in the state quarterfinals next week.
“We made mistakes today that we usually don’t make,” Ahrens said. “That was on us. 100 percent on us.
“All the way until the very end – I honestly thought something was going to happen on that last play. I’m just still in disbelief that we lost that game.”
Eatonville 38, No. 4 Ellensburg 6: The Cruisers simply couldn’t prevent the Bulldogs from doing what they’ve done all season with their run game.
Ellensburg got 173 yards and two touchdowns from Mason Sherwood as the four-time reigning CWAC champion Bulldogs ran for 280 yards total to advance past Eatonville into the 2A state quarterfinals to play Sedro-Woolley next week.
Eatonville’s Ryan Antonson had 12.5 tackles, but the Cruisers (8-3) didn’t get their first score until Tristan Graf hit Darak Scruggs for a 21-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
No. 3 Lynden 31, Black Hills 21: The Lions reached the 30-point level after Black Hills scored on a 23-yard, one-handed touchdown grab by Noah Brewer to cut its deficit to 24-21 with 7:39 remaining.
The Lions’ response? A methodical dose of Jacob Hommes and Brody Weinheimer runs that covered 68 yards in 10 plays and consumed 4 minutes, 15 seconds before Weinheimer scored his third touchdown of the day.
“That drive, they ate up a lot of clock, and we were just tired enough we couldn’t get that stop. I think that depth showed,” Black Hills coach Kirk Stevens said.
“We graduated 20 seniors from last year and a group that a lot of people thought wouldn’t even make the postseason, let alone state. What they’ve done has been a great accomplishment.”
No. 7 River Ridge, W.F. West 7: Trey Dorfner ran for two long touchdowns, senior wideout Ryan Blash caught two deep balls for scores and the Hawks advanced to the state quarterfinals with the win at South Sound Stadium.
Dorfner also intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, the flashiest part of a hardnosed River Ridge defensive performance that six times turned the Bearcats over on downs.
“That’s the best performance we’ve had on offense and defense, both at the same time,” River Ridge coach Steve Schultz said. “And (W.F. West) is a good team, big and tough and physical.”
Meridian 34, No. 5 Cascade Christian 21: Simon Burkett connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Logan Dawson late in the fourth quarter as Meridian upset Cascade Christian, ending the Nisqually League champion Cougars season at Sunset Chev Stadium.
Meridian (7-5) will play Connell in the 1A state quarterfinals next week. Cascade Christian (10-1) receiver Austin Carder (132 yards) set the school’s career receiving record with 1,764 yards over his career.
Staff contributed to this report
WEST VALLEY OF SPOKANE
NO. 6 FRANKLIN PIERCE
FP – Mason Starling 10 pass from Willie Patterson (Cameron Bowdish kick)
WV – Collin Sather 35 pass from Hunter Wright (Chase Howat kick)
WV – Sather 73 pass from Wright (Howat kick)
WV – Wright 4 run (Howat kick)
FP – Willie Patterson 2 run (Bowdish kick)
FP – Alex Bing 13 pass from Patterson (Bowdish kick)
WV – Dylan Levno 30 pass from Wright (kick failed)
FP – Starling 65 pass from Patterson (Bowdish kick)
WV – Howat 27 field goal
FP – Patterson 34 run (pass failed)
WV – Connor Whitney 43 pass from Hunter Wright (Howat kick)
FP – Stoney Shafer 8 run (Bowdish kick)
WV – Wright 1 run (Howat kick)
RUSHING – West Valley: Hunter Wright 27-93; Brett Cantrell 5-11. Franklin Pierce: Willie Patterson 21-126; Stoney Shafer 19-85.
PASSING – West Valley: Hunter Wright 19-25-1-346. Franklin Pierce: Willie Patterson 13-23-2-250.
RECEIVING – Collin Sather 5-157; Connor Whitney 5-74; Dylan Levno 6-61. Franklin Pierce: Mason Starling 4-138; Alex Bing 5-52; Max Bletterman 1-22.