No one told Bellarmine Prep or Gonzaga Prep this wasn’t a playoff game.
The Lions jumped to a 21-point lead in the first quarter, but the Bullpups rallied to take the game to overtime after a blocked field goal and a goal-line interception before leaving Tacoma with a 34-28 victory on Friday — despite Bellarmine Prep’s Ahmad Lewis rushing for 208 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries.
Gonzaga Prep’s Mason Plese plowed into the end zone from a yard out to seal the victory in overtime after the Bullpups got a stop on a Bellarmine Prep fourth-and-1 from the 5 on their opening overtime series.
“I tell you what, that’s a good football team,” said first-year Bellarmine Prep coach Brian Jensen of seventh-ranked Gonzaga Prep. “It wasn’t about, ‘why we didn’t hang on.’ It was a battle of two good football teams. It was just a good football game.”
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One with shades of last year’s meeting.
Gonzaga Prep’s Evan Weaver, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive lineman committed to Cal, burst through the middle of Bellarmine Prep’s line and got his outstretched arm on what would have been a 29-yard go-ahead field goal with 4 minutes, 20 seconds to play.
“It was huge. Nothing bigger than being able to come big in the fourth quarter,” Weaver said. “I was just thinking, ‘Great players make big plays.’ I just wanted to come through for my team.”
That was after he blocked a field goal when Bellarmine Prep visited Spokane last year — only that time he also returned it for a touchdown.
Weaver compensated by scoring three rushing touchdowns Friday, including the first two to get Gonzaga Prep back in the game.
But that 21-0 first-quarter deficit? It had to look especially daunting considering the Bullpups defense scored all but three of the team’s points last week … right?
“I mean, honestly, we were laughing,” Weaver said. “We thought it was kind of funny. We were like, all right, it’s just more of a competition. Let’s just go out there and kick some (butt).”
Three big plays helped give Bellarmine Prep the early cushion.
The first came from first-year quarterback Christian Moore to senior receiver Blake Wilcoxen, who caught a pass near the right sideline, juked a defender and ran into the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown. Wilcoxen finished with eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
After a three-and-out from Gonzaga Prep, Lewis took a handoff on the first play of the series, emerged from a scrum and ran 77 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Bellarmine Prep’s Isaiah Conner then intercepted Gonzaga Prep’s first pass attempt of the game on the ensuing series, and Moore ran in for a score.
It just wasn’t enough for the Lions.
But rather now than in in the playoffs.
“I’m so doggone proud of my guys, and I’m proud of Gonzaga Prep,” said Jensen after his first home game as the Lions head coach. “This is a real fun rivalry and I think both teams are going to have a good season.”