On post-season life support and needing a miracle, pre-season Greater Spokane League football favorite Ferris got one last week.
Tuesday night, in front of 2,050 fans at Joe Albi Stadium, the resuscitated Saxons made the most of their second chance in a mini-game tie-breaker series that resurrected State 4A playoff hopes.
Ferris defeated first Gonzaga Prep 14-7, then University 10-0 to earn the third and final GSL berth to state qualifying games against the Columbia Basin Big Nine. The Saxons (6-3) travel Friday to unbeaten CBBN No. 2 seed, Wenatchee (9-0) for a 7 p.m. game in the Apple Bowl.
In other state play-in games, No. 1 4A seed Mead (7-2) plays No. 4 Southridge (7-1) Friday at Albi, the second game of a doubleheader that begins with GSL champion Mt. Spokane (8-1) versus Sunnyside (3-6) in a 5:30 p.m. 3A contest.
No. 2 East Valley (3-5) is at No. 1 Hanford (3-6) in another 3A game and on Saturday, No. 2 4A Central Valley (6-3) plays No. 3 Kamiakin (7-2), 3 p.m., also at Albi.
“Starting on Friday we get the miracle there,” said coach Jim Sharkey. “I still don’t know how the tiebreakers work but it worked in our favor. Then this came up. We’re in the final 32 and anything can happen.”
The “miracle” he referred to was South Hill rival Lewis and Clark’s comeback at Gonzaga Prep a week after the Tigers had beaten Ferris and seemingly eliminated all hope that it would be in this position for the fourth straight year.
Given the lifeline, the Saxons took advantage in the format that included two mini-games of 8-minute halves each. In the first, Gonzaga Prep played without quarterback Shane Schmidlkofer because of a concussion.
Ferris’ defense made a key stop preventing Bishop Sankey from turning the corner, which followed with a Bullpup penalty that ended their initial drive.
It was prelude to an 88-yard Ferris scoring march in which Connor Halliday completed five passes, one a 24-yard catch and run by Jordan Tonani.
“It was just break away from the linebackers and that’s what I did,” said Tonani, “get a little speed and see what we could do from there.”
Gage Orosco added 25 rushing yards on four carries and Jason Bates caught the touchdown toss with 36 seconds left in the first half. Right after the break, Halliday surprised Gonzaga with an option keep that he took untouched 54 yards for a 14-0 lead.
The Bullpups answered quickly on a 48-yard reverse to Nick Lenoue, but the Saxons kept the ball for the final six minutes, Prep losing a fumble on the first play of its other offensive opportunity.
In the second game, University moved the football early and Thomas Wakem picked off Halliday racing to the Ferris 36. The defense, however, again held firm, Tonani had two more catches that set up another Halliday to Bates TD strike, from 15 yards out.
“I thought our defense played the best it has played since the second half of the game at Esperanza,” Sharkey said.
Ferris received to start the final 8 minutes and Cody Sorensen took the ball, raced across the field, then turned up for 42 yards. Coupled with a costly personal foul three plays later, Alex Belling’s 29-yard field goal provided the final points.
“We prepared really well for the two games,” said Tonani. “I’m just glad we came out with a win. This team is a bunch of fighters and is never going to give up no matter what. This was huge for us.”
Ferris was expected to win the GSL after reaching the state semifinals two seasons in a row. Instead, the team just barely got into the tiebreaker. In 32 minutes, the Saxons earned a chance to play on.
“All those mistakes we made early in the year, somehow we got away with them to have this chance,” Sharkey said. “We were a little cleaner, our special teams were good, we took care of the ball for the most part and still made plays. We have to play a quality team in Wenatchee, but we have a shot.”