Friday night’s Class 3A state quarterfinal football game between Peninsula and Rainier Beach was everything fans could have wanted.
There was scoring. There were turnovers. There were lead changes. There were explosive plays. There was nonstop back-and-forth action. And there was late-game drama. The one thing Peninsula fans didn’t want to see? Injuries.
A possible broken collarbone for Peninsula quarterback Burke Griffin cost the Seahawks a shot at a late-game comeback as Beach played spoiler at Roy Anderson Field, winning 38-27 and advancing to the state semifinals.
With Peninsula having already scored 15 points quickly in the fourth quarter at Roy Anderson Field, the Seahawks had retaken a 28-24 lead. Rainier Beach answered with a touchdown of its own, taking back the lead, 31-28.
With just over five minutes remaining and Peninsula’s offense firing on all cylinders, it looked like a perfect situation for quarterback Burke Griffin to lead the Seahawks on the game-winning drive.
Except Griffin didn’t come out for the drive. He had been injured on the previous offensive drive, the play before he rushed for a touchdown — his third rushing touchdown of the night.
“As I fell, someone fell on top of me,” Griffin said. “It was just a football play. I felt a little something go. It didn’t hurt too bad in the moment — I just sucked it up and played. … I came out and I tried picking up the ball and throwing it a bit and we made the decision that I wouldn’t help us at all on the field.”
With Griffin out, Peninsula’s offense sputtered in the final drives of the game. A team that had all the confidence in the world that it would come back and win the game was left devastated.
“Injuries are tough, but I’m really proud of the guys that stepped in, did their job and stepped up for us and gave us a chance late in the game,” said Peninsula coach Ross Filkins.
Griffin, in pain, had to watch from the sideline.
“It’s never fun to watch from the sideline, but we have two great backup quarterbacks and we had faith in them from the very beginning,” Griffin said. “It’s not so much the pain of the broken collarbone as it is the losing. And of course, it’s always tough to watch your team suffer at the end. I’m super proud of the way we fought the entire night and I wouldn’t ask anything else of our team tonight.”
Peninsula trailed 14-10 at half, and 17-13 at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Peninsula’s offense came alive.
“We just had momentum,” said Peninsula senior receiver Jace Keim. “I felt like our pass game was working better than our run game. Downfield, their deep coverage, we just beat them out. There were some fun plays out there. All the momentum was with us. We felt like we had that game in the bag.”
Griffin finished 11-for-18 for 147 yards. As he began to do more as the season wore on, he took over parts of the game with his legs, finishing with 46 rushing yards and three touchdowns on eight carries.
“We had all the confidence in the world,” Filkins said. “There was a lot of stuff there still on the table that we knew we could execute. It was tough.”
Rainier Beach quarterback Max Nall finished 9-for-12 for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Explosive plays hurt Peninsula on the night. Nall found Freddy Roberson for a well-executed 54-yard screen pass touchdown in the second quarter. Rainier Beach running back Jariuos Jones rushed 94 yards for the final score of the game, late in the fourth quarter.
For the fifth time in six years, Peninsula advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
“I’m really proud of these kids and I’m proud of the kids that have made those kinds of achievements in the past,” Filkins said. “These things are not easy. Of all the very best teams in the state, there’s only one that’s going to end on a win. We don’t look at it as anything tarnishing our season or a black eye.”
Peninsula has a young roster and will return the bulk of its players next season. For the few seniors on the team, it will be tough to say goodbye.
“I’m honestly in shock right now,” Keim said. “I’ve been here all four years. The journey is over. I can’t thank the coaches enough for everything and for the man I’ve become because of them. It’s just crazy that it’s over.”
And mostly, Filkins remained proud. He felt his team improved tremendously over the course of the season.
“I’m just super proud of all of our kids for just how together they played and how much they supported each other,” Filkins said. “They have a lot to be proud of. They definitely needed to keep their heads up. The scoreboard didn’t reflect the effort that they put on the field tonight.”
Peninsula: Burke Griffin: 11/18, 147 yards; Chase Wittmers: 0/1, INT; Cooper Sims: 0/2.
Rainier Beach: Max Nall: 9/12, 233 yards, 2 TD.
Peninsula: Griffin 8-46, 3 TD; Foreman 12-37; Potter 6-17.
Rainier Beach: Jones 13-163, 2 TD; Roberson 10-85; Burton 6-47; Sio 4-13, TD; Shackles 3-8; Nall 4-7.
Peninsula: McKinney 2-66; Keim 4-38; Foreman 2-31; Wittmers 1-10; Potter 2-2.
Rainier Beach: Stell 3-72, TD; Starling 2-65; Roberson 1-54; No. 7: 2-45.