For a team making its first football playoff appearance in 22 years, the West Valley Eagles seemed uncommonly comfortable and composed Saturday – even during some extremely trying moments.
But no one held it together better than senior quarterback Drew Clausen, who threw for three touchdowns and then ran for another in overtime to lead the Eagles to a 28-22 win over Othello in the quarterfinals of the State 2A playoffs at Gonzaga Prep’s Bulldog Field.
The win moved West Valley (12-0) into Saturday’s semifinals against Ellensburg (12-0) at Albi Stadium. Game time has yet to be determined, but whenever they kick it off, look for the Eagles to be riding a confidence high after knocking off a veteran Othello team (9-3) that was making its 13th straight playoff appearance after winning State 2A titles in 1997 and 2004.
“It feels incredible,” said Clausen, a quick-footed and highly elusive 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, who scampered 5 yards for a touchdown on a perfectly executed option play to give West Valley the win on its first overtime possession. “But it’s not really a shock to us to be here, because we’ve been playing together sixth grade.”
The Eagles had a firm grasp on what they needed to do, even after the Huskies had battled back from a 22-7 fourth-quarter deficit and tied the game on Amando DeLeon’s 35-yard fumble return with just more than 4 minutes left.
The first order of business was stopping Othello on its first overtime possession, which they did – with the help of a couple of penalties and Nick Brown’s fourth-down sack of Huskies quarterback Jeremy Cerrillo.
They made that big defensive stop even more meaningful by using a 32-yard screen pass from Clausen to Krys Smith to help overcome a holding call on their first play from scrimmage in OT and set up Clausen’s short touchdown run.
Clausen, who used his speed and some nifty footwork to frustrate Othello’s pass rushers throughout the game, completed 14 of 21 passes for 216, hitting three receivers – Mitch Peterson, Greg Clinton and Ryan Dahlstrom – with scoring tosses.
Clausen also rushed for 63 yards on 17 carries, yet it was his composure that impressed Eagles coach Craig Whitney the most.
“He’s a tremendous kid, and an even better competitor,” Whitney said of Clausen. “His leadership was just superb tonight. He kept the guys calm and focused when there was a lot to get excited about. He had a calmness about him in the huddle and on the sideline, which is a great trait for a kid who can play quarterback at the next level.”
The Eagles got a bruising rushing performance from Smith, a 5-8, 205-pound junior, who bulled his way for 93 yards on 16 carries.
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